Could You Use an Advisory Board?

Sept. 3, 2008
Businesses of all sizes stand to benefit from a formal advisory board.

Contestants on “Don’t Forget The Lyrics!”, a TV game show, receive three life lines. In many cases, these life lines provide the contestant with the guidance to choose the correct answer, or at least help eliminate the wrong choices. Rarely does anyone know all of the answers, and without the help of the life lines, the probability that the contestant wins is slim.

The vending and OCS worlds are the same. Think about it: How many times would you have liked to have a life line, or an advisory board, to help you think through your most critical decisions? Imagine having an industry insider, a proven business leader, and respected subject matter experts around a table providing you feedback on issues most crucial to your company’s long-term success.

Board of Advisors are a life line

Advisory boards have no formal power, binding legal or fiduciary authority. An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners with support, advice and assistance. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO.


Many vending companies are family owned businesses that could greatly benefit from an outside group working on long-term strategy. Advisory boards can help with touchy subjects like succession plans and developing new markets.

Anther huge reason to create an advisory board is the fact that I would bet your competitor does not have an outside group working on long-term strategies.

The fact is that most companies in our industry do not use outside groups to help grow their companies.

If they do use someone from outside their company, it tends to be a highly paid former employee of a large publicly traded vending company.

The fact of the matter is most vending operators are not large publicly traded companies and will never operate like one, so why pay for this advice?

There are several other advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business:

  • Increased corporate accountability and discipline.
  • Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness.
  • Greater credibility with investors, suppliers and customers.
  • Help in avoiding costly mistakes.
  • Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in the current management team.
  • A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities.
  • Enhanced community and public relations.
  • Improved marketing results and effectiveness.
  • Strategic planning assistance and input.
  • Centers of influence for networking introductions.
  • Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the owner.
  • Help anticipating market changes and trends.

What does it cost?

You don’t have to have tons of money to have this support. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost any money! Did you ever notice that when you ask someone about something they are passionate about, they enjoy giving you their opinion?

There are plenty of people in your life right now who would be honored to be on your board of advisors. People love to be acknowledged for their expertise.

Your budget should not be a roadblock. Be willing to ask for help and you will be delighted by how willing people are to share their expertise for the price of a good cup of coffee!

Who to find

The key is to find people who have been successful in the direction you want to take your company. So if you want to grow your sales effort, ask someone who has had success at sales.

If you want to create a new brand of food, ask someone who has done so. You may also want to ask someone from your target market like a human resource employee of a large manufacturing company you do not do business with.

There are two considerations: 1) their area of expertise and 2) who they are as a person. The second consideration is actually more important than the first.

Decide what type of person you want on your board. This is very much like the concept of defining your ideal client that most of us have done.

Do they need to have a sense of humor, have similar values, or be active in your community? These are all important characteristics over and above the experience they have in their field.

Once you’ve determined the type of person you want or need, you can then designate the areas of expertise that you’d like to have represented. Below are some ideas to get you started.

Do not be afraid to change the board often. To help with this, I like to advise people to keep terms to one year. If you need to change you just do not renew.

Steps to create an advisory board:

Step 1: Make a detailed list of your company’s needs. It is important to match talent with need in creating an advisory board.

Step 2: Solicit the most talented people in their field to be on your advisory board.

Step 3: Look to the future when creating your advisory board. Your board should complement, not replicate your current management team.

Step 4: Create a chart that you can use daily to match talent with talent, experience with experience. Making a list of your current team’s management skills will help you fill the gaps with talented members from your advisory board.

Step 5: Imagine a possible situation you may find yourself in with a member of your board. Decide what kind of impact he is going to have on decisions.

Step 6: Change the make up of your board periodically and tell them upfront that once in a while you will add a new member with different talents. Keep terms to one year.

Step 7: Manage the advisory board you have created. Provide direction and don’t be afraid to challenge and encourage them. It is your responsibility to help them help you.

A competitive advantage

Ninety percent of all vending companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for family run vending companies.

Who in your life is waiting to be asked to join your board of advisors so they can support your success?
Ask them today.


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