Many of us have just completed setting our goals for 2009 (and if you haven’t yet, stop reading this right now and get going on it!). Writing down your goals is a great first step toward achieving them. But once you’re done with this exercise, then what?
Unfortunately, for so many business owners, the next step is … nothing. It becomes just one more thing that slips through the cracks and makes them feel guilty. It’s not that they don’t work hard; it’s just that they don’t stay focused on achieving their goals and therefore never get around to the execution. “I’ll work on my goals after I call this client, and do one more performance review …”
When you’re a business owner, you typically manage yourself. And even though you may think you’re hard on yourself, you’re not hard enough. Everyone needs a boss, someone who will get excited when they succeed, and disappointed when you fail. That’s why you need someone to hold you accountable for what you say you’re going to do. In business, you can accomplish this by forming an advisory board.
An advisory board is a great way to keep yourself on track, gain outside perspective and engage a larger network in making your business successful. They provide focus for business owners who get pulled in many different directions. When you share your goals with a group of advisors whom you respect, you increase your chances of achieving your goals. You will also gain more resources (their experience, expertise and advice, and their business leads) that you can use to meet your goals.
If you are serious about putting your written goals into action, then get serious about taking the next step and forming an advisory board. Here’s how you can do that.
- Pick some people whom you respect. Since you want to be held accountable for what you say you want to do, pick people who, if you disappoint them, it would upset you.
- Pick people who have experience in your industry. Maybe it’s a recently retired executive who wants to give advice and give back, or it’s someone successful in a nearby city (who’s not likely to be a direct competitor). But find some folks who know the landscape in your industry.
- Offer incentive, but not money. The rewards of serving on an advisory board are rich, but cash is not one of them. Board members get a great sense of giving back. They love to feel like they are admired and appreciated (so don’t forget to thank them and let them know how their advice helped you). Many of them get reward from meeting the other board members. So give them some time to network and mingle.
- Go and court them. Once you’ve assembled a list, go ask those people if they would be interested in serving on your board. Have an outline of what you are looking for, how many meetings you are planning to hold, what kind of help and advice you need, etc. Some people may say no, so have some back-ups. You should assemble a board of three to five people to start.
Once you have formed your advisory board, you can now plan your meetings. I usually recommend dinner meetings because they reward your board members a little. During the meeting, you tell them about your progress toward achieving your goals and outline any obstacles or challenges that you may have faced. Then, you review your plans for the year and for the quarter. At the next meeting, you do the same thing, and you talk about how acted on the advice they gave you at the previous meeting.
It’s good to keep in touch between meetings with email updates every two to three weeks. This will minimize the time you spend catching up with everyone when you get back together. Let them know how things are going for you. Share any new challenges or opportunities. Many times, they will respond back with advice or contacts that may help. This constant feedback insures that even in the midst of the whirlwind of day-to-day activities, your primary goals and challenges stay top of mind for you.
If this seems like a lot of work, or like the process of getting an advisory board is tougher than the process of meeting your goals, there is an easier way to get this benefit. There are a number of CEO roundtable groups that provide ready-made peer advisory boards. In these groups a professional facilitator leads a discussion where non-competitive business owners share their challenges and opportunities. I am a member of a Vistage group and would be happy to share my experience with you.
In 2009, make it a priority to achieve your goals – not by yourself but with the assistance and guidance of an outside advisory board. The results you achieve will be well worth the time and effort you put into forming the board in the first place.
If you are interested in learning more about advisory boards, please contact Anchor Advisors and we can assist you.
Photo credit: Brady Withers