Advisor Insights with Werner Böing

Advisor Insights

Published 13 March 2023

As a vivid advocate and advisor for digital healthcare, Switzerland-based Werner Böing is a leader that personifies attributes and experiences to create successful technology and data-enabled new business models. A thirty-plus year background across multiple industries has seen Werner be involved in all stages and facets of business – from an automotive think-tank (his first foray into the advisory world), to serving as an executive and board member for global market leaders in FMCG, biotech, and medtech. Werner’s passion for people has encouraged him to use his experience and network through his advisory practice Evisory to support startups and boards co-shaping the digital future in healthcare and beyond.

When implementing advisory boards, Werner urges businesses to be clear about their intent and needs – clarifying that they are indeed ready for one. He emphasises the importance of considering the representation and diversity of an advisory board with members who bring a different perspective and fill knowledge gaps. With an open and transparent set-up, an organisation is sure to benefit in the long term from its advisory board. For the advisor, Werner believes the ability to engage and interact with individuals is essential to staying relevant, and this can be fostered through building networks. “Maintaining expertise goes hand in hand with remaining relevant to your connections and your networks.”

In this Advisor Insights interview with Advisory Board Centre’s General Manager of Engagement Penny Ellenger, Werner encourages the notion of being self-aware and self-critical to enable continual development and understand your “funnel of relevance” – that is, what people should be seeking your expertise for – and nurture it from the start.

Networks are not built when you need them. You need to start thinking about them and the way you want to be relevant in the future when you are still in a corporate environment. Be it industry associations, be it interest groups, be it standardisation groups…think about how you as an individual in the future will create a funnel of relevance.


The “Advisor Insights” series are unfiltered conversations that give you a lens into real people and real businesses within the advisor ecosystem.


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Penny: Hi everyone. I’m here with one of our advisor members and Certified Chairs, Werner Boeing. Welcome, Werner. It’s great to have you.

Werner: Thank you very much for having me.

Penny: No problems. Werner’s going to share a little bit of his own insights from the advisory space, and I guess to share a little bit with those listening to this session. I’d love you to start then please, by sharing a bit about your background and what brought you to the advisory space, please.

Werner: Yes, thank you, Penny. And I have a background in multiple industries. I worked in automotive and consumer goods and for the last 15 years in healthcare in a broader sense. And well my interest in the advisory space actually started in the first role that I had. I worked in an automotive think tank, and I also helped think about how you spin off innovation. How do you turn something from a small idea into viable businesses? And there I help with academics who had created in certain activities mentor them. And that got me thinking about an interesting situation where people looking for advice for help, for support to build from a technology idea economically viable option. And this kind of interest between technology and commercial guided me throughout my career.

So when I joined in consumer goods, I found ways to use digital marketing, technology and commercial to create businesses. And then I joined the healthcare industry and that was not so obvious for many people thinking about the transformative role of technology in there. But there were plenty of opportunities. And now everybody sees the role of tailor medicine and the role of data in healthcare. And I was a board member in a large healthcare company. And since two years I created a business with my wife together. She’s a medical doctor, and we are helping startups meet tech companies in the field of digital healthcare. And so that’s something that what we do and maybe the red thread between the different stints that I did in my career.

Penny: Yes, that was what I was what was occurring to me there. It really is a wonderful thread that you’ve then been able to draw into this next phase of activity. And so, so Werner, for other professional individuals who are thinking about taking their pathway into a, you know, portfolio of advisory or other board style work would you have any, any tips or techniques for those individuals if they’re thinking about doing that now?

Werner: Yeah, that’s, I mean, yesterday I met at the conference, one of my friends, and I gave him that advice. He said that was very valuable! So I start with that, start early. So when you’re still in the corporate environment and you’re tinkering with the idea of a portfolio career adjacent portfolio career, maybe at first, and then going fully in. So networks are not built when you need them. You need to start thinking about networks and the way how you be relevant in the future when you are still in a corporate environment, be it industry associations, be it interest groups, be it standardization groups. So think about how you as an individual in the future will create a funnel of relevance. And that starts typically with your professional background being still accompanied with a logo, with a role, and that’s the way typically most people look at individuals, say, look at first at their role and, and the company that works on. And that is a super springboard for you to add relevance. Well, as you’re still in corporate. Yeah. really think about growing and building the network the areas that is specifically interests. You invest some time, some quality time that will be of immense value when you then in an advisory capacity mm-hmm.

Penny: I think that’s really useful. I love that phrase, build your funnel of relevance. because that’s one of the, I guess the very key aspects of, of a, of other, other successful advisor profile. It’s, it’s about having that very high degree of current expertise and maintaining that expertise which goes hand in hand with, with remaining relevant to your connections and your networks. Thank you for those, those tips. I think they’re really, really useful. I guess on the other side of the equation, Werner you’ve obviously come across a number of organizations that have been on the path to commercialization and for whom you’ve made the suggestion of an advisory board or an advisor to support that commercialization process. So what would be if you could share please, some tips for those businesses, those organizations that are considering implementing an advisory board?

Werner: Yeah. I think they’re, they’re different, different perspectives on, on it. I would see and I would characterize them maybe with the three attributes, readiness, complexity and, and bias. And what I mean is what are your intent when you’re seeking out for advisory? And so are you in, in real deep need for solving a different problem? Are you in a discovery face where you need diversity of thinking? And I think be really clear about that you really want as, as simple as it sounds, that you really open. I don’t, because there’s no legal obligation for advisory. So it’s really a means to help you to get what you want. So and it’s an individual that maybe triggers the setup of an advisory, but also think about how this will tinker down into your organization.

Is your organization ready for it? The second thing is also if it’s a single functional topic, you maybe well go for a consultancy. If it’s a episodical, it’s the one thing, you know but typically I would think companies would benefit from advisory as a really in the way of setting up an advisory board looking at the representation of different thoughts and thinkers and, and elements. If you are confronted with you know, decently complex situation yes, multiple stakeholders, the economic landscape is shifting. You, you may need corporations. There’s an ecosystem evolving. So typically indications for it, if it’s not just a functional excellence, single topic that you want to solve for the year or for the key question of the year, you can still use advisory and consultancy.

But if there’s something evolving, you need a diverse perspective. I think that’s a great point to, to use, use advisory. But then it’s also sometimes it, it’s not only the insight that you need in order to activate change and transformation in organization. Sometimes it’s also the inner thought process of an organization maybe based on the past success that you’re not really taking on a new route. And advisory can really help bringing different perspective, but also with credibility. Yes. That is born outside. So this could also be a nucleus for the activation of an insert that you might already have a hypothesis, but it helps you creating traction Yeah. Inside for activation and implementation of strategies as well as we are all humans. And sometimes the backing of an experienced group with caveat and on certain tips and tricks helps internally to get moving.

Penny: Yes. Okay. So to sort of break the nexus, or break the paralysis a little bit where that’s interesting. And, and is that the bias that you refer to in those three, the readiness, the complexity, and the bias is that where there’s a preexisting sort of understanding, well, we did it this way before Yeah. So therefore it’s going to work this way, so to bring in that different, different thinking?

Werner: Yes. And, I think it’s, I mean, my take on over 30 years of corporate life, it’s all about people! Yes. Technical and other challenges and biases – it’s a way to under, to characterize key thinking patterns that sometimes exist in organization and some mantras are being repeated and they become part of the belief systems. And many of them are really solid because they help to guide and situation a bigger organization to move into certain ways. But some of them are created through the success of the past. Yeah. They’re very powerful. But that’s the way we do it, you know? Yes and I think awareness about those things is, is really, really important sensitivity, but they’re very hard to change. And I think advisory boards can help because advisors could share their own experiences, not coming from a position of only strengths or success could also come out of a situation of experienced struggle and, and challenge. And then it becomes some, you know, kind of a mixture of where to go, but also how and what’s the role of the leader. And I think this mixture can be a very helpful.

Penny: Component Yes. And healthy to see the different options that might be available based on others’ experience. Yeah, thank you for that. That’s, that’s really interesting. And I think, you know, for many organizations there is, there’s potentially a challenge with, with working through that thinking to then say this is maybe a means by which we can, we can open our eyes and open our sites a little bit.

Werner: And opening, opening the heart, because yes, sometimes you know transformations also come with a redefinition of how you think about the employees in a time where, where this is maybe the scariest resources, thinking about the culture and, and sometimes a story for someone else is stronger than a PowerPoint slide with three bullets on it.

Penny: Oh, yes. The personal experience of having been through it, been there and survived talking I guess of that, that, you know, going into unknown territory and looking for support in that area. I’m very interested in hearing from you because you’ve got tremendous experience in the startup and scale up space as you described at the beginning. So I’d love for you to share what has your experience of serving in an advisor capacity in that, in that startup and scale up space?

Werner: Yeah. Well, it is not a single thing. It’s, you know, as colorful as a rainbow, you find everything yet because it’s about the characters of the founders and co-founders,

Penny: The people elements, again, as you, as you’re saying. Yeah.

Werner: And I mean, I admire them for the stamina and their exposure. So they’re really going through a lot. So somebody who is idolizing founders and think that’s a piece of cake and a walk in the park it could not be more different. so what I think is, it’s very interesting is the different type of areas where they’re in, where you can support from, from business models to technology, to strategy to commercialization. It is like a catalyst scope of what businesses are about in a very point. And come from one to the other. And it’s very intense. It’s very different, very colorful, but it’s also that the advisor is not at the epicentre of a startup. So that’s something advisors need to be aware you are of support when they’re ready. And, and that’s sometimes really, really difficult to understand is it’s not as continuous and structured as a governance board.

Penny: Yes. As a more established or larger Yeah. That comes with its own challenges, but I guess this is quite unique.

Werner: You need to be ready for it for your own ways of working and so being of support of for entrepreneurs has to come with flexibility, and understanding empathy because it is not just the functional expertise, it’s also building camaraderie for founders because they not have many places where they can open up.

Penny: Yes, have that sort of safe, safe environment to be vulnerable and be open to support for yourself. I’m interested to know over the time so far that you have spent serving in an advisory capacity what for you have been some of the things that have been challenging for you, whether that’s things that you’ve had to change in yourself or things that you’ve experienced of others serving in that capacity? What have been sort of the biggest challenges?

Werner: Yeah. Coming from a technology element as one dimension into advisory and technology changing so fast, what is the source of your credibility and relevance as a mentor over time if something changes so much, it’s not like in board roles where your general management skills be the kind of longer lasting, that’s the way our business is done. Yes. But what is this notion of what, what how our business has done is changing so far. To really be open and reflective about where is it an expertise, experience, competence element. In a functional or in a specific scope area, and how do you maintain and how can you be true to being of service? It starts with what is the source of your credibility. Yes. Over time. So be very self-critical about it, caveat on it and, and saying, look, this was how it was done two or three years ago. In those situations, it might have changed. So I think this is something being self-aware, self-critical be externalizing those elements and not presenting overconfidence in situations that needs openness with the direction, curiosity.

Penny: And an ongoing challenge to yourself to remain current and very self-aware and as you say, self-critical comes back again to that relevance piece, that funnel of relevance. Any, any other I guess in terms of behaviors that are maybe people bring into advisory boards that don’t belong in an advisory space that have been challenging for you to work alongside?

Werner: Yeah, I think so the whole point of going into a portfolio career, going into advisory is being creating a place for you that personally reflects your interest capabilities. And that needs also to be true to your sources of motivation. Yeah, so to be reflective about the portfolio of clients that you have created, whereas your maybe the functional desire fulfilled you, you feel intellectually stimulated but also how is the nature of the businesses, the structure being in the way that you would like them to see, so you have a perspective of how the mixture should, should look like in order for you to feel good and, and creating the impact, but also having the fun that you want. Yeah. And those things can change over time.

So that’s what I realized, in the beginning, you experiment and go here and there, but then you sharpen your view on where you feel like can add most value and saying no to areas that may not fit into that. Yes. So thinking a portfolio career needs somebody to manage the portfolio, and that’s you. You need to know what you like and want, and you need to see if something is not fitting, and you have to be able to say, no, that’s not me. Yeah. So that’s, that’s something This is freedom that you have and that capacity comes with a self-discipline, self-awareness also the ability maybe to select rather you stay focused and having a bit more quiet time if things are not presenting themselves versus getting busy for the sake of being busy.

Penny: Werner, I’m hearing from an individual perspective knowing your relevance, knowing your value that you can bring to an organization understanding and knowing that that value and that relevance may change over time and it may need to change over time based on evolving needs in your portfolio marketplace. I’m also hearing that there’s got to be some fun in it along the way. So a very healthy balance of self-discipline and being self-critical and self-aware, but at the same time, ensuring that what you’re building for yourself is, is really enjoyable. You get as much satisfaction from what you’re delivering as the organizations you are supporting get impact and success. And as I say, I think that’s a very healthy place to be. Werner Boeing, it’s been lovely chatting with you today, and I really appreciate your insights into the advisor space. Thank you very much for joining me today.

Werner: Thank you for the opportunity.

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