Monday, December 7, 2009

Advisory Board

Even if you have a working partner that may fill one or more of these roles it is always a very good idea to have an advisory board. It is ok for you or your partners to fill these roles, but it is unlikely that all of the roles of the advisory board can be filled by the management of a small business. Even if all of the advisory board roles can be filled by management it is still a very good idea to have people outside of management to bounce ideas off of.

Today there are many opportunities to have an advisory board that will either cost nothing or very little. Develop a relationship with the following professionals and have them part of your advisory board:

1. CPA – You are going to need a CPA to prepare your tax returns and possibly to perform a compilation, review or an audit. Usually if you hire a CPA to do these things they will be part of your advisory board. Usually they will be on the advisory board for nothing if you give them the aforementioned tax preparation business and you develop a good relationship with them. CPA’s can also refer you to funding sources and other support services including referring to you more business.
2. Lawyer – You should develop a relationship with a good business attorney. It must be a business attorney. One of the perils of business is that it exposes you to legal situations. Certainly do not use attorneys if you do not have to and there are other opportunities to get more cost effective legal advice like Prepaid Legal Services and others, but you want to get an attorney on your advisory board. Therefore it is a good idea to develop a relationship with an attorney who you can trust and will bill you in a professional manner. I have seen some attorneys bill me $75 for sending a fax! It can get that crazy. However by developing the right relationship with the right attorney you can have a trusted and valuable advisory board member who you can call when the need arises for legal assistance. Lawyers can also be a source of support services, funding sources and may refer more business.
3. Insurance Agent – There are several situations in business that call for specialty insurance and special protection. A professional insurance agent will be able to identify perils and risks that need to be insured.
4. Part time CFO – By using a Part Time Chief Financial Officer you have the opportunity to get a number of financial services on an as needed basis. In addition you have a valuable advisory board member. Here are some of the CFO services a part time CFO can perform:

• Solving cash flow problems
• Determining cash needs
• Designing a plan to work with existing cash and other resources
• Structuring an exit plan
• Determining Business Value
• Optimize operations
• Drive results and drive the bottom line
• Contribute to business development
• Shape financial strategy
• Understand, identify and assess the risks of business ownership.
• Prepare the Financial portion of your business plan.

5. Technical or operations professional depending on your industry – This is where you add someone to your advisory board that has the operations or technical expertise related to your product or service. You may have someone in management but once again it is always a good idea to get perspective from someone outside of management if available.

These professionals on your advisory board may charge a fee. I would be leery of this. My suggestion is to do everything you can to build the right relationships and to promise giving business to these professionals down the line.

I have a business associate who says he never has or never worries about any problems in his business. The reason is he gives all problems to his advisory board and lets them figure out all of his problems and lets them assume all of his worries. Advisory Boards can be very helpful and it is worth the time and energy to build the right one.