Accelerate Your Success with an Advisory Board

Accelerate Your Success with an Advisory Board


One of the most powerful ways to experience outrageous success in your business & career is to surround yourself with successful professionals and business owners who are where you would ultimately like to be. Now is the perfect time for you to prepare for success in 2011 by assembling your very own personal or business advisory board.

Let's get started …

What is an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board (a.k.a. Board of Advisors) is a group of seasoned professionals who are interested in your business and willing to invest time in cultivating your success.

Who should you invite to join your Advisory Board?

  1. Experts in areas important for your success. Areas that are important for almost all businesses include intellectual property, accounting, insurance, marketing, sales, human resources and general corporate transactions.
  2. Experts the areas in which you are weak. Examples of potential weak spots include negotiating and managing joint ventures.
  3. Mentors/ Role Models. People who you like, respect and have businesses you would like to model.

Advisory board members should be people from whom you want to learn and grow. It is useless to have an advisory board filled with people who will simply agree with whatever you say. Therefore, don't waste your time looking for “yes” people or those who are otherwise unlikely to be honest and objective with you. An ideal size for a small company's advisory board is between 5 and 10 members.

Key Traits of Ideal Advisors:

  • Seasoned, Successful Professionals/Business Owners– not your peers. People who are successful in their own right are more likely to have an interest in contributing to your success.
  • Demonstrated Interest in Community/Industry. People who are engaged in the community and/or their industry (e.g., community groups, professional trade associations, etc.) are more likely to be interested in investing time to support your success.
  • Retirees. People who are retired are more likely to be interested in supporting the growth and development of growing businesses. They are also more likely to be looking for ways to stay active and relevant in the business community.
  • What is in it for your Advisors?

  • Building Relationships. If you are able to secure one influential member for your Advisory Board, you will find that other candidates may become more interested just for the opportunity to work with their peers in a business setting. Successful people like to be around other successful people. If you don't have access to any influential people personally (although I bet you do if you simply work though your connections – at UpwardAction® we can help!), your Advisory Board Book (as described below) presents a perfect opportunity for you to create a vision of success for your company that is attractive to successful people.
  • Giving Back. Many successful people have a sincere interest in “giving back” by helping other business owners succeed. They are simply looking for the right opportunity to invest their time and energy.
  • Sense of Value and Pride. One of the best forms of flattery is to ask for someone's advice and opinion. Sometimes being a part of an Advisory Board will feed your prospective advisor's ego. Being a part of your Advisory Board also gives them an opportunity to feel really good about adding value to your business and being a central part of your success. Do not under-estimate the power of bragging rights.
  • How do you get an important and busy person to consider joining your Advisory Board?

  • Be clear about your purpose, mission, vision and goals.
  • Know what you want to learn and gain your Advisory Board.
  • Make it easy to say yes by creating an advisory board book (“Board Book”), using a small three ring folder, with the information listed below. Give your Board Book to each person you ask to join your advisory board. Please note that this should not be a lengthy or “bulky” presentation. Your prospective advisory board members are busy – so, only give them compelling information that summarizes your business case in a nut shell. You are not writing a thesis or dissertation … .
  • Your Board Book should include:

    1. Executive Summary. This should be a two to three page document containing your company vision statement, mission statement goals and objectives, core projects, target customers/clients and value proposition.
    2. Photographs. If you have photographs of your projects, facilities or you in action (if you are a service provider), include them. This is your chance to make your company shine!
    3. Advisory Board Basics. This document should contain a purpose statement and advisory board requirements. Your board requirements should be pretty simple and include things like – attend a quarterly meeting, maintain confidentiality, make all feedback constructive, etc. If you require that advisory board members sign confidentiality agreements, be sure to enclose a copy.
    4. Agenda and Logistics. Make it easy for your prospective members to know as much as possible about your advisory board meetings by including a draft agenda (meetings should be limited to one hour) and locations of the meetings, if relevant. .
    5. List of Advisory Board Members. Once you have secured your first advisory board member, ask permission to include that person's contact information in your Advisory Board Folder. Remember, successful people like to be around other successful people. So, be sure to let your prospective members know about other successful people who are investing in your future
    6. Your Biography. Share a bit of yourself with your prospective advisory board members. Let them know why you are in business, your professional and life vision/purpose, educational background, hobbies, interests and any other information that lets them know why they should invest their valuable time in your growth and development.
    7. Token of Appreciation. Further set yourself apart by including a small token of appreciation for the time your prospective member has spent considering your advisory board membership proposal. A $10.00 Starbuck's gift card is an example of something that could work. Be certain to make it crystal clear that your token of appreciation is without any expectation and is simply a gesture of thanks for your prospective board member's time in reviewing your Board Book. Make this the last item in your Board Book.

    What are your obligations to your Advisory Board?

    • Treat them well. Sponsor non-alcoholic drinks and light hor d'oeuvres at Advisory Board meetings.
    • Invest in a nice and quiet meeting space. Show your professionalism and high regard for your Advisors' time by securing a private space for your meetings (e.g, private room in a restaurant or hotel meeting room).
    • Be prepared. Prepare and bring pens, notebooks and copies of your agenda to each meeting. The agenda should be very similar to the one presented in your Advisory Board Book. Distribute materials that are important to discuss at the meeting to members approximately 1 week before the meeting. Be judicious when sending information to your adviser, remember these are busy people with limited time … so only send what is absolutely necessary.
    • Stick to the time schedule. During the initial stages, consider limiting your advisory board meetings to an hour long meeting per quarter. It is critically important that you stick to your time schedule, regardless of whether or not you get through the agenda. It is your job to develop an agenda that properly allocates time for each agenda item and then manage the agenda during the meeting. When creating your agenda, be diligent about only including high priority items that are likely to have a significant impact on your business. Advisory board meetings should not turn into open-ended brainstorming meetings – save this for your Mastermind groups.
    • If you find that certain items take longer than anticipated, adjust your agenda, recognizing that you may not get through all items. You are not to go over your time schedule, no matter how interesting or the conversation around a particular topic. At the end of the meeting, let your advisors know that you highly value their time and will table all remaining items until your next meeting. It is important that you keep your word regarding time (and all other things) as you build your reputation and creditability with this group of influencers.

    BONUS ** Although it is not necessary to pay member of your advisory board a fee, it is a nice gesture to make a charitable contribution after each meeting in the name of your collective advisory board.

    What is the difference between an Advisory Board and a Board of Directors?

    In most cases, an advisory board is simply an informal version of a Board of Directors. You get the same value without requiring your advisory members to commit to the legal obligations of a Board of Directors and without the expectation of payment. Unlike a Board of Directors, advisory boards are not a governing body. They exist to provide advice and to make recommendations. All small businesses that are serious about success can benefit from an advisory board; however, whether you are ready for a formal board of director will depend upon a variety of factors.

    What is the difference between an Advisory Board and a Mastermind Group?

    A Mastermind group is designed to create a safe space in which all members can brainstorm, collaborate and grow their businesses together. Mastermind groups also require a significant time commitment to be valuable and most impactful. The goal is to equally contribute to the success of everyone in the group – therefore, it is important to allocate enough time to accomplish purpose. Mastermind groups commonly meet for several hours once a month or several days once a quarter for maximum impact. While Mastermind groups are certainly an important part of your business success, they are quite different from an advisory board, which is formed to provide specific expertise and experience within a limited time frame to which you do not otherwise have access.

    What is the difference between an Advisory Board and a Success Team?

    The purpose of these groups is the same, only the logistics are different. Advisory boards are generally formed to support a business and center around sharing at scheduled group meetings. Success teams are formed to support an individual and center around periodic one-on-one meetings or telephone calls.


    This article provides general business information only. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific or general matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.

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    Tasha Cooper Coleman, Esq. is a branding strategist, social media consultant and CEO of UpwardAction®. She helps firms, corporations and agencies build magnetic brands and leverage the power of the Internet for profitable returns. Learn more about UpwardAction® and sign-up for free online marketing and business development tips at and