As a Business Owner, Seek Advice Early and Often

It is not uncommon for business owners to seek advice. This is why they join groups like Vistage or other groups. Getting together with others who have similar positions and responsibilities is essential to learning from your peers. Seeking advice is encouraged in Scripture too. Now, it is true that counsel can be good or bad, depending on several factors, such as the source of the counsel or the circumstances in which the counsel is given.

When a business is going bad, usually an owner will withdraw and focus on the problem in an effort to turn around the decline. Sometimes, in spite of his best efforts, the owner finds him or herself rather isolated, absorbed in the details and not knowing what to do next. Rarely do they seek the counsel of someone who can help them turnaround their business until it is too late. Having been there myself, I can attest that the tendency to sever ties while working harder and harder is the opposite of what you should be doing. Reach out and seek help.

Here are some verses on what the Bible has to say about seeking counsel:

  • Psalm 1.1-2: How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor site in the sear of the scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he mediates day and night.
  • Proverbs 1.5: A wise man will hear and increase in learning and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
  • Proverbs 9.9: Give instruction to a wise man and he will be wiser still, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
  • Proverbs 11.14: Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.
  • Proverbs 12.1: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
  • Proverbs 27.6: Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
  • Proverbs 27.17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

There are many, many more verses about receiving both good and bad counsel. And the Old Testament is replete with examples of both. Gaining advice can be done informally over lunch or more formally from an advisory board. In my business, due to my travel schedule, I found it was better for me to use a board that met a couple of times each year. I learned that having people who invested in my person and business was a good way for me receive good advice. Now, how well I implemented that advice is a discussion for another day, but the Advisory Counsel, in and of itself, was very valuable.

Advisory Board

Our Board is compensated. The job description is minimal and is commensurate with their compensation. The job description contains these elements:

  1. Be available to meet 2x/year for a full day each time
  2. Hold everything you learn about our business in confidence
  3. Participate and offer suggestions and ideas on how we can improve our business as it relates to:
    1. Processes
    2. Products
    3. People
    4. Policies
    5. Profits

What we really look for in our advisory board are Christian Business leaders who know how to run a business. We try to find a mix of at least 50% who own their own business and are successful in their own right. We define “success” as consistently turning a profit year after year. But we also look for business leaders who are not business owners. And within these two broad categories, we look for people who bring different foci to the board. For example, in our board we have the following:

​Name ​Current Position ​Unique Contribution
Board Member #1​ ​Business Owner ​Strong marketing and branding experience
​Board Member #2 ​Business Owner ​Strong technology background and teaches in local MBA program
​Board Member #3 ​Chief Operating Officer ​Has held both CEO and COO positions in the Long-Term Health Care field
​Board Member #4 ​Chief Operating Officer for distribution company ​has held CEO position in the building and construction field
​Board Member #5 ​Business Owner ​Strong international business background
​Board Member #6 Federal Reserve Economist ​Strong understanding of how business works
​Board Member #7 ​General Manager of a Marketing Firm Strong experience in running a business similar in size to mine

 

Be sure that not all of your board members are good friends, otherwise, you might not always get the truth and your time together may devolve into a social engagement. You need to come to the meeting with an agenda and then you need to stick to it. Now, be ready – if you get a group of talented, smart and honest people in the same room and ask for constructive ways to improve your business, you will get what you ask for. And be prepared that their insights and challenges may be more about your person and work as opposed to your business model or financial condition.

If you have questions about how we run our advisory board, please feel free to contact me.

But no matter what, be sure that you’re getting consistent, good advice from others. It will be invaluable as you run your business.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

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