Advisory Boards are Individuals as well as a Collective Group
You’ve built your advisory board and it’s been running a year now. What’s next? It’s time to evaluate the current composition. Who have your stars been? Who hasn’t contributed much? Who are the subject area stars on the horizon? What functions aren’t fully addressed yet? How do you weed out those who aren’t helping and replace them with others who might contribute in a different, more useful way?
If you haven’t already set a “term” for your advisors, this might be the time to do so, but remember that can cut both ways. If the term of service is one year, though, you can always ask some to stay for a second term. Or, you might shift them to another type of advisory role. There are many tactful ways to rotate someone out of this position, for example, you might be showing respect for their time and other responsibilities. Usually, if an advisor has been inactive, providing a graceful exit is not a problem; it hasn’t worked for them either and they may be relieved to find an easy out. But the gems on your board may be long-term keepers.
When it Works Like a Charm
Sometimes a member of an advisory board who feels committed to your company can be a godsend. And a handful can work like a team of angels. In one case I know of, the Advisor has been involved for years and continues to be passionate. A great choice by the company, this advisor has made countless introductions, and because of his leadership qualities, often has the ear of very high level educators. The innovation he’s shown in his own, otherwise unknown, district has garnered much attention for its successes. He’s created models of implementation that have been studies for their applicability in other districts by both technologists and state-level educational administrators. The resulting visibility has lead to strategic partnerships, state-level attention for the company, expanded business, and new business and product ideas. But don’t think this was a one-way relationship. The Advisor got to build his vision with the support of the company, he derived a lot of visibility by having the company include him in their market-facing events, provided all the support he needed to advance his ideas and to try out his vision. Their relationship continues to flourish, growing both the Company and the Advisor’s success.
How does this happen? Is it a fluke, or just dumb luck? Hardly. What’s notable about this relationship, and others that this same company enjoys, it a willingness by the management to pick up the phone and chat with such advisors. What new projects are they working on? What challenges or objectives might the company be facing that the Advisor might shed light on? What’s on the drafting board that might jumpstart some ideas? This keeps the Advisor thinking about the company, and feeling included, because he is included. The Advisory piece isn’t only a twice-a-month meeting or phone call, but is interwoven into how the company does business. I must admit I didn’t really understand it four or five years ago when I first encountered it, but now I understand the mutual benefit, the sense of involvement, the personal relationships and mutual commitment that have made this, and similar one-to-one use of advisors work. In populating the Advisory Board with a handful of such partners, this company has mined the Advisor’s expertise both individually and collectively, and has benefited as a result.