Tuesday, 10 May 2016 13:56

Building An Advisory Board? Some Starting Do's and Don'ts

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I've recently done work with CEOs to recruit Advisory boards in the marketing tech and marketing services spaces.  

  • If you are looking to recruit Advisors for your business, this will be 100% relevant to you.
  • If you're looking to be an Advisor to an organization at some point, this will be about 80% relevant to you.

Advisory Boards. The quirky cousins of Boards of Directors. Advisory Boards can take your business to new heights, introducing you to new customers, new employees, new funding, and new ways of thinking.

But Advisory Boards, if not well-established and well-managed, can also die on the vine.


Looking to recruit Advisors? Here are 6 tips, based on my recruiting experience and research I conducted with marketing tech and marketing services companies.

1. First, figure out what you need. Then recruit Advisors to fill specific needs. Too often, a business leader will pick advisors based only on pre-existing professional and social relationships. While trust is important, a more deliberate approach often yields the best business results. Consider this advice from one CEO who's also a veteran Advisory Board member:
 
"Build a grid of all the key experiences you are looking for: finance, international expansion, business development, tech, marketing, whatever. See what's covered already and then focus on the gaps when picking Advisors. And continually revisit that grid."

2. Resist the urge to simply recruit 'eye candy' for your website. Opt for a real exchange of value. Who wouldn't want the who's who of CMOs from huge consumer brands gracing the Advisor section on their website? A star-studded board can boost legitimacy and social proof, especially in the crowded marketing technology space. But think beyond the shiny logo slide and press release. Identify advisor candidates who have the knowledge and contacts to help you move the needle on your initiatives. Most Advisors truly want to provide value, and can tell when they are being used for their titles and organizational affiliations.

3. Set clear expectations with Advisors up-front. In a survey I conducted of Advisors, a common refrain was that they felt under-utilized. To avoid that, be clear on expectations for your Advisors up-front. How do you want them to add value with their skill set or network? How often do you need them? What role can they play in meetings to be most useful? How can they add value outside of board meetings? What happens if they switch jobs?

4. Make sure you are ready to listen and take action. One Advisor said, "You have to want the advice from the Advisors. In almost all cases I've seen, the Board has provided major strategic input that has influenced the CEO's thinking. The CEO wanted it – that's what mattered."

5. Understand the motivations of your Advisors. I found that Advisors tend to fall into one of three types depending on whether they value:

  • Pragmatic/financial benefit: They will be most gratified if improved business performance translates into a financial return for them.
  • Networking: They will appreciate vibrant meetings and other great opportunities to expand their networks.
  • Leaving a legacy: These advisors value giving back to the next generation of business leaders.

Consider a Board that is composed of people across this spectrum.

6. Compensate Advisors in a way that feels fair for both sides. The most common compensation scheme I've seen for Advisors is in the form of stock options, plus reimbursement for meeting expenses. Many arrangements entail monthly or quarterly vesting which allows Advisors and CEOs to ‘break up' on quick notice if the fit is not right. But there are many different remuneration schemes that can make sense, ranging from non-monetary rewards to sales commissions to retainer fees.
 
Want to hear more about recruiting an Advisory Board that has real value for your business? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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