Sometimes you need a hand. Sometimes you can offer one. Be willing to do both.
My great friend, Nancy Michaels, posted a Rant on Saturday. Thanks, Nancy, for this reminder: Your best business will be a reflection of YOU, not anyone else. Mentors, consultants, other businesspeople, can all play a powerful part in your business development. However, steer clear of anyone who wants you to become a mini-them. Thanks, too, Nancy, for including me in your Rant as a good guy. (I do, on occasion, like to wear a costume. Just sayin’!)
Do allow yourself to be helped by enlisting people who can help you with areas of your business. However…no advisor is good at everything! The person who taught me the most about focus and business planning really struggled with his health and family relationships. I offer help with Financial Clean Up, and Business Planning. I refer to other pros when it comes to help with Marketing and Sales and Operations.
To Pay or Not To Pay. Sometimes a quick phone call or business chat over lunch is a great way to get – and give – good free advice. However, it is appropriate to pay for services, even from friends. Have the conversation up front. “I would love help from you. What will we consider help as friends, and when should we formalize this help and enter a consulting relationship?” You can also sign up for one of their programs or seminars and expect service like a client. Nancy and I work together as friends and I am participating in her latest formal program, for example.
Here are people on my Board of Advisors. Some of them I have also paid to help me with specific areas of my business. Frank Blau for all things Financial. Nancy Michaels, for Marketing and Publicity. Dan Holohan, for Business Planning and Writing help. Al Levi, for Operations and Marketing. Orna and Matthew Walters for help with our Tele-Summit Event. Clint Arthur, for TV Publicity. Alex Carol for Radio Publicity. Jeffery Gitomer for Sales. Melinda Emerson for Business Planning and Social Media. Getting ready to play with Anisha Robinson Keeys for Corporate Connections. And loads more!
If I need help, I seek out those who can help me. And I offer to help when I am qualified and can. I also try to balance what I can pay for and expect an increase in my Sales and/or Profits as a result. Don’t sign up for everyone at once! (I’ve tried to buy my way out of problems. Doesn’t work.)
And, Nancy’s Rant also inspired me to share this advice about creating a Board of Advisors. It’s an excerpt from The Biz Plan Challenge Home Edition. Enjoy!
Shore Up Your Board.
Create a board of advisors for your company. A board of directors is comprised of paid professionals who carry heavy legal and fiduciary responsibilities for your company. Advisors are unpaid volunteers with no real legal responsibility. Volunteers are expectedly less formal in their advice and participation.
What does a board of advisors do? The best boards are independent, objective thinkers who help you solve tough business problems. The best board members complement you in strengths. They see your company with fresh eyes and unattached egos. NOTE! Beyond the scope of informal help is a paid consulting relationship. There is a place for both.
- Start by putting together an ideal list of advisors. Who are the best thinkers that you know…living or dead? How about having Thomas Jefferson, Tom Peters, J.P. Morgan, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Ben Franklin and Mahatma Ghandi on your board? Cool, huh? Now, some of those folks are dead, and the others may be, well, over committed at the moment. (But you never know! Ask them.) Add to your list others who exemplify the best characteristics of these great thinkers. Do you know someone with common sense, like Ben Franklin? Warren Buffet would certainly add a high level of financial literacy to the board. Who else do you know who really understands financial reports?
- Pick folks who are smarter and richer than you. Don’t be intimidated. Just ask. You want challenging people, who will help you grow and develop. Aim for 5 to 7 crackerjack board members. Pick the best people you can for the board. Each member of the board should feel honored to be in the company of such fine people. If someone turns you down, accept the rejection gracefully. Assume they are flattered that you asked.
- Communicate what’s required to be a board member. What are you looking for? Direction or advice on a specific topic? You could ask for feedback about your business plan. Ask them to meet to discuss growth issues at the company. Be specific about your dreams for your company. Is it lots of fun and boatloads of money? Formalize your thoughts in a solid business plan and distribute that to the board members. Meetings could be once a quarter. Certainly, you can visit with board members individually more frequently.
- Help them right back. Just because they are smarter and richer than you doesn’t mean that you can’t be of service to them. Make sure that each board member – particularly on a volunteer board – knows that you are available to help them in any way that you can. Thank them frequently for their efforts. Offer to help them right back.
Your board can help you over the rough spots in business, and can teach you important things…like how to get profitable. And, how to manage better, so that you can have some fun in your life. But make no mistake about it. A company isn’t run by a committee. Ultimately, you are responsible for the success or failure of your organization. It’s a lonely job.
In her wonderful book “Soloing – Realizing Your Life’s Ambition” Harriet Rubin tells of her experience as a board member. The women who asked her to join the board described the board member’s role this way:
“CEO’s are lonely. They can’t tell their people of their outrageous ideas or ideas for the future without scaring them, without them saying, ‘We’ve just jumped through this hoop, now you’re thinking of something else?’ I need someone smart to bounce ideas off of. I need contacts, if I want to investigate some new approach. I need someone to tell me, candidly, if an idea is good or if it stinks.”
Create a board – shore yourself up.