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The Alternative Board Blog

Part One: Benefits of a Peer Advisory Board: Board Members Tell All

Aug. 9, 2021 | Posted by Phil Spensieri
Peer Advisory Board

Over the last 15 years, I have dedicated my professional career to helping business owners design and implement strategies with sound, reachable growth and profitability goals. I have worked with countless business owners, each with their own unique needs. Every owner's reason for joining The Alternative Board (TAB) has been similar yet different. While I can preach about the value TAB brings business owners, I thought it’d be best for you to hear it directly from our current board members, so I surveyed members of my board, TAB York Region, for their thoughts. Below is a compilation of their responses. 

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Owning a business requires determination, resilience, and leadership, among many other traits. Our members join TAB for various reasons, whether it’s to seek mentorship, surround yourself with like-minded people, or find solutions for your business needs and issues. Here are some of the reasons our current members joined us.

Why did you join TAB?

For Adrian Isaacs, Founder and Managing Partner of Isaacs Advisory, a financing advisory service located in Toronto, joining TAB was beneficial for several reasons: “I found it very useful to be able to have a forum to discuss issues I was having in my business. Having a group of people to discuss issues and get group feedback has been very useful. Phil has also been a big reason to join as he had provided one on one guidance over the years prior to joining. For my business, an added benefit is the ability to market my services to other TAB members. So business development was also part of the reason to join.”

Craig Lauder of SIA Albums Inc o/a The Boudoir Album shares a similar reason for joining TAB, sharing that he was looking to receive opinions from like-minded individuals coming from outside of his business.

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At TAB, you will meet with your fellow board members once a month to discuss your businesses. Prior to their first board meeting, many of our members are unsure what to expect as the experience of being a member of a peer board is usually new to them. Here’s what they have to say about their experiences with their peer board meetings.

Are the board meetings different from what you thought they would be like? If so, in what way?

Kevin Fullterton, President of Geron Associates Limited, founded in 1959, says that the board meetings exceeded his initial expectations, in particular “the great advice my peers provide, and being able to provide my experience and knowledge to the board members.”

John Blair, President and CEO of Blair Technology Solutions, an experienced and trusted technology advisor and solution provider, agrees, saying that the board meetings are a constant “give and take”, where there is a mutual display of respect and willingness to offer advice to those experiencing help.

If joining a peer advisory board seems intimidating to you, Mark Scarrow of Scarrow Yurman & Co., may offer you some peace of mind, noting that the meetings are “less formal” than he initially thought they’d be.

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Is it difficult to commit to coming every month?

The majority of our respondents responded to this question with a resounding “no”, although Scarrow mentions that if he does miss an occasional meeting, he feels “both badly for the other members that I’m not there to contribute and that I’m missing out!”

For Fullerton who’s never missed a meeting since joining TAB, he finds the timing of his board meetings to be very convenient for his schedule, which allows him time during the day to “address what tasks I need to accomplish before the meeting takes place.”

Want additional insight? Download Hiring a Business Coach for Your Small Business now 

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What do you like most about the board meetings?

No matter if you’re a newer or more senior member at TAB, we strive to create an experience that provides you with valuable and actionable takeaways to improve and grow your business. Here’s what some of our current members enjoy most about their board meetings.

One of our newer members, Hitesh Verma of PCI Services LTD., says that he appreciates the perspectives provided by his fellow board members, in addition to learning from their issues. Scarrow agrees, saying that there is always learning going on “amongst all members.”

For Blair and Isaacs, they value the camaraderie and friendship most, with Blair sharing that “you are not ashamed as an owner to bring up uncomfortable issues.”

Fullerton also highlights an important point, noting that TAB covers a variety of topics affecting your business. He says he enjoys “talking to my peers, whether it is HR related, operating a business or how to increase sales. While we are all in different types of business, we all have similar challenges.”

What has been the best piece of advice you have received from a fellow board member?

Providing feedback is the entire essence of our peer boards, and many of our members are appreciative of the advice they’ve received from their fellow business owners. Here’s what they had to say about the best piece of advice they’ve received from a fellow board member.

Fullerton recalls one situation in particular where he was very grateful for the advice he received from a member: “When I was dealing with a difficult HR issue pertaining to a long standing employee, a member reassured me that my approach was right and to follow my instinct. In the end, the issue was resolved without any repercussions and it taught me to be more empathetic and understanding in the future.”

Other situations are less emotionally-charged, as Scarrow noted: “...I recall one other time when we were going to do a website development in-house and my fellow members cautioned against this and it turned out to be the best advice.” Similarly, Lauder also points out how TAB connected him with some amazing connections with outside resources that had a significant impact on his business.

And for Isaacs, it’s more about the process than the actual advice given: “I think the major benefit is not so much one person giving you actual advice, but it's the process of collaboratively talking through issues and arriving at a solution. It's the process of the dialogue.”

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Is there follow-up from your TAB facilitator after these meetings?

Communication is of utmost importance for TAB facilitators, and our board members elaborate more on this topic below.

Fullerton says: “My facilitator Phil will always share information after a meeting that other members provide, or articles that may be of interest to the group pertaining to a subject that was raised in a meeting.”

Isaacs also notes how his facilitator is “always available” and “very responsive” especially if he has more pressing needs.

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How have the board meetings helped you in your business?

Every business owner will have their own reasons for joining TAB, yet in addition to addressing their immediate needs, they’re often provided with additional value. Below are some of the experiences of how TAB has helped these members.

According to Scarrow, TAB improved his accountability to both his facilitator and board members, while also saying that his meetings bring a fresh perspective to the topics he raises. Verma seconds this point, saying that he’s always provided with an alternate perspective after his meetings.

For Lauder, he says he finds it “extremely helpful to just talk to knowledgeable people” about his business, and TAB also provides him the opportunity to refocus on working “on the business” versus “in the business”, which is instrumental for business growth.

Oftentimes, the entrepreneurial journey can have business owners feeling isolated. Fullerton mentions how TAB showed him that the challenges he faces are often shared amongst his fellow board members: “The advice you receive is something that can be implemented or adopted, too, and makes me a better business owner as I continue to shape and develop the company forward.”

And for Blair, he sums it up best: “My business is better run because of it.”

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Are you ready to transform your business just like how these business owners transformed theirs? Contact TAB York Region today to learn how we can support your unique business goals and growth today, and be sure to stay tuned for Part Two of this series where you’ll learn more about the value being a TAB member brings you.

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board

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Written by Phil Spensieri

Phil Spensieri is a TAB Facilitator in the York Region of Ontario, Canada.

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