Advisory Boards? Consultants? How To Use Both To Improve Your Company

As a business owner, your “on-the-job training” may have prepared you for normal times, but during these days should you make all the tough choices alone? The stakes have never been higher. Whether you are faced with a “bet the company” decision, rotten options, or daunting opportunities, making decisions alone is as tough as ever. While everyone you ask will give you an opinion, is that good enough? You probably know you need better advice, but finding, choosing and using expert outsiders is harder and costly.

Consultants and advisory boards are two good choices. While both groups will make a strong case that they are your best bet, perhaps both can be your best bet. As a consultant who also serves on advisory boards, I have seen how both approaches have been great solutions or complete train wrecks for helping an owner grow his or her company, even when used at the same time. Here are three steps on how to make the right move for your business.

Step 1
Decide what stage your business is at now. Does it need:

  1. A new strategy or direction?
  2. An action plan for that direction?
  3. Oversight and support for implementing the plan?
  4. A scheduled review of the progress and performance of those responsible for results including you?

Step 2
Match the right resource to the stage you chose in Step 1.

  1. Use a consultant primarily for “1” and “2” above and when you need:
    • To develop or revise your company’s strategy.
    • Upfront analysis and research for decision making.
    • A working partner to help prepare you and your decisions before making commitments and announcing plans.
    • Help to implement your decisions where your staff lacks the skills to do so on their own.
  2. Use a board of advisors primarily for “C” and “D” above and when you need:
    • Help staying true to the strategy you have set.
    • Objective review of the progress you are making on your action plan.
    • Reactions to how you are implementing your strategy especially in areas you are not expert
    • Evaluation of how the resources you have committed are generating the results you expect.

Step 3
Manage your consultants and board of advisors for your success:

  • Never have your consultants serve on your board or your advisory board members provide consulting services. Pay them both to do only one thing at a time but have them interact often and at your regular meetings.
  • Use the consultant to help you frame the questions you ask and implement the recommendations you obtain from your board of advisors
  • Use the board to assess and confirm your strategy, action plan and results you and your consultant have promised to produce.
  • Ensure your consultant and your board regularly challenge each other’s thinking, recommendations and performance.

Making good decisions requires the best input, unbiased advice and constructive debate you can muster before you cut it off and make the decision yourself. Give yourself all the advantages you need to survive and grow in this environment. Choose your consultants and board advisors wisely and let them have at it for your benefit. You need and deserve nothing less!

Need more help with hiring consultants and an advisory board? Contact Andy Birol using the form below for more information.

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