It can be lonely at the top, which is precisely where many business owners spend a lot of their time. Loneliness, however, isn’t known to inspire cutting-edge creativity or cost-slashing resourcefulness. As an entrepreneur, it’s creativity and economic savvy—among dozens of other things—that you require most.
There are many aspects of running a business that entrepreneurs must deal with on a regular basis: planning, financing, hiring, executing, marketing, purchasing and selling responsibilities all fall under their purview, even if other managers handle the day-to-day tasks. If you’re a small business owner, you know how it feels to wear many hats. And you’ve probably also noticed that the more hats you wear, the less effective you seem to be.
If you had the resources of a megacorporation to hire your own board of directors, you’d be set. But for now, it’s just you—sitting alone at the top. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Peer advisory boards provide real-world board advice and direction for the small business owner—advice that’s drawn from decades of personal experience in the business world. What can that kind of insight do for you? To put it clearly and concisely, peer advisory boards help you to achieve more than you can on your own. Here's how:
How Peer Advisory Boards Help Business Owners Achieve More
1. Remove your blinders. Blinders are put on horses to make the animals better at their jobs—they allow them to focus, and increased focus leads to improved performance. You may have noticed this in yourself—better focus results in better work.
Unfortunately, a high level of focus can come at a price, making it very difficult for a business owner to have awareness of absolutely everything. Far from a poor reflection on your leadership skills, your ability to focus is one of your greater strengths. But this ability becomes much more useful when it’s complemented by the larger view brought by a peer advisory board.
The panoramic vision of a peer advisory board lets you remain focused on solving one issue at a time. You can take comfort knowing that possible opportunities or oversights will be brought to your attention by others. This is an indispensable tool for a growing business.
2. Challenge your goals. Setting and achieving goals is what building a successful business is all about, but entrepreneurs often focus on a specific end goal when other more productive and impressive achievements may be within their reach.
For example, you may have a goal to grow sales by 10% in the next fiscal year by increasing cold calls. But did you consider the possibility that you could likely grow sales by 15% with a new marketing campaign that includes a well-designed set of integrated marketing tactics and channels? You may be aiming to get a write-up in the local paper, but what if you could actually get coverage in a national magazine? The possibilities for your business are infinite, and it takes more minds to imagine more of them.
A peer advisory board is made up of experienced individuals who will a priori have ideas for your business that are different from your own. The saying “two heads are better than one” applies in spades to business modeling. Your peer advisory board will expand your tunnel vision, providing you with options you may never have considered.
The takeaway here? Maintaining focus on a major end goal is something that all entrepreneurs should do – but make sure that you’re not setting your sights too low, and always consider that there may be alternate routes that will get you to that goal faster.
3. Crowdsource intellects. Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Very, very few ideas are 100% original. Yes, Einstein developed the theory of relativity, but he used the math and physics approaches discovered by others. Yes, Joseph Salk created the vaccine for polio, but he was working with the chemistry and biology discovered by others. In a way, these innovators and inventors were working with the peer advisory boards of the past.
Like other innovators, your ideas will and must involve the synthesis of other ideas. Imagine the power of gathering your own entrepreneurial think tank into the same room or the same conference call. That is the beauty of the peer advisory board.
Don’t pressure yourself to come up with ideas that are always 100% original—it’s not going to happen! What you can do is combine existing ideas in new ways by tapping into the creative minds of people who want to advise you. Let them.
4. Synthesize abilities. How can a brilliant inventor realize her creation if she doesn’t have the plastic to build the prototype? Can we enjoy a chef’s gourmet dish if he has no access to pots or pans? Brilliant creations rely upon creators having access to the resources they need—things they themselves can’t make.
The inventor needs the model-maker. The chef needs the kitchenware manufacturer. You need advisors with abilities that you don’t have. Drive needs patience. Vision needs execution. Capital needs labor.
Imagine your peer advisory board in action: Owner A becomes the go-to for copyright advice, as her company has already been through an intellectual property lawsuit. Owner B acts as advisor in new payments markets, as he increased sales by 13% last year after deciding to accept Bitcoin. And everyone goes to owner C for industry referrals, as he’s been building relationships in business for over 25 years. Everyone wins.
The necessity of teamwork in highly competitive markets can make you feel like you’re in a tug-of-war: the addition of even a single person can decide the victory. Anyone and everyone on your peer advisory board can be that critical individual—the one set of hands that makes all the difference in the game.
5. Give confidence to your employees. For a shipmate, there’s nothing like knowing the captain at the helm is knowledgeable, trustworthy and capable. Gale winds and rough seas are as threatening to a ship’s crew as financial insecurity and intraoffice disorder are to your staff. They need to know that the person in charge knows what they’re doing. After all, their jobs depend on it.
The presence of a peer advisory board shows your employees that you are quite in control of operations. It shows them that they have been wise to place their trust in you. Regular meetings with a peer advisory board position you as the forward-thinking, deal-sealing business owner that you are.
High employee confidence also saves you big money in the long run due to a reduced turnover rate. The financial and time-related costs of hiring and training new staff are significant, and the longer your people stay, the more you’ll save.
Peer advisory boards promote employee confidence, and confident employees are more likely to believe in you, your vision and the company.
6. Provide moral support for you. Sole decision-making power can be alienating, and the limelight can be a very stressful spot. The more employees you have, the more stressful your decision-making will be. When the livelihoods of others are dependent upon you, pressure takes on a whole new meaning.
Gain confidence and peace of mind with a peer advisory board. Get genuine feedback and reassurance that the path you’re choosing is the right one. That you’ve considered all the options. That you’re operating with the long run in mind.
The imagery of a businessman feeling the tie around his neck becoming a noose is pervasive and does not have to be your fate. If you drink, let it be for pleasure and not to relieve stress. If you get massages, let it be for luxury and not desperately needed relaxation. In short, make your company work for you instead of working for your company.
In fact, that can be your motto at every peer advisory board meeting: “We don’t work for this company—it works for us.”
When these benefits come together, a peer advisory board can truly take your business to the next level. It can identify the errors you didn’t know existed, synthesize solutions you didn’t think possible and provide the confidence you thought you might never have.
The Alternative Board has been partner to many success stories of small business owners just like you. We are interested in one kind of person and one kind of person alone—the entrepreneur who’s ready to attain and further her company’s potential.
Take a moment to explore the benefits of TAB membership and envision your company with its own peer advisory board. We’re here to confirm—boards of directors aren’t just for megacorporations anymore.