When I speak with business owners and CEOs looking to join a peer advisory board, there are several questions that come up about how to find the right fit. Since it is essential for you to choose a CEO Advisory Board that works for you, here are some questions to ask and the answers to look for.
1. How many members sit on a board?
Some companies allow as many as 15 members on a board. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to provide each business member a thorough review on a monthly basis. At TAB, we have anywhere from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 10 members on a board, with the norm being 8. This allows members to get to really know each other and to understand the challenges they each face in a business setting.
2. Do you have a chair/facilitator/coach assigned to every board?
Some companies charge the same fees but don’t provide a chair/facilitator. This can lead to disorganization, wasted time and poorly run meetings. TAB provides you with a certified professional who facilitates (chairs) your monthly board meetings. Additionally, through monthly individual coaching sessions, you also benefit from the extensive education and hands-on business experience that each facilitator has. These individual sessions will help you with any ongoing issues, while at the same time, assist you in developing and following your business, marketing, and succession plans. The facilitator is a key resource for your business because s/he has contact with and can draw upon the knowledge and practice of so many different types of businesses.
3. Does the advisory board company take attendance and commitment seriously?
If a meeting doesn’t have consistent attendance, a board can’t work together cohesively. At TAB, we take your attendance and commitment to your board very seriously. Attendance and tardiness are tracked. It forces you to hone your time management skills, and also to work more on your business than in your business by delegating your responsibilities.
4. Does the advisory board offer a structure that works?
At TAB we consider this to be your Board of Directors. Every month you report on key financial indicators, and on critical issues that deal directly with how to grow your business without having to work harder. It’s a “no bull” session and can often become intense when you are hearing things you “need to hear” instead of what you “want to hear.” One of our member’s favorite statements is, “If I don’t walk away from my TAB board meeting completely upset at least twice a year, I don’t feel like I’m getting a return on my investment in TAB.”
5. Is the advisory board made up exclusively of business owners, and set up in a way that ensures that no member has a customer, competitor or supplier relationship on the same board?
Competing interests can make a peer advisory board counterproductive and tense. TAB understands that you can’t be totally open at meetings if measures are not taken to avoid conflicts of interest in the group (i.e. a member can’t share a cash flow problem if there is a supplier on the board). At TAB, we take great measures to ensure that you have a completely safe environment where you can discuss anything.
6. How far in advance are dues paid, and what is the contractual time commitment?
Some companies make you pay anywhere from three months to six months in advance. At TAB, we don’t want you on a board because you feel financially obligated. We want you on a board because you are getting value both for yourself and your company. Contractually, your obligation is for one month’s notice, although we do ask you to give us three months’ notice.
7. What if you don’t like your board after the first meeting – what will it cost you?
With some peer advisory groups, you could lose a lot of money if you quit shortly after you join. At TAB, we don’t want your money if you are not committed or if the board is not a good fit for you. If you aren’t satisfied after your first meeting, we will refund your investment.
8. Does the advisory board have an international infrastructure?
At times, even the board and your facilitator can’t help you because your issue is so industry specific. Through TAB’s hotline, we can circulate your issue anonymously for feedback and suggestions from more than 300 TAB facilitators in over 20 countries (and growing) throughout the world. Our network includes the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Czech, Republic, Slovakia, Australia, Austria, France, India, Mexico, Israel, Venezuela, Scotland, Switzerland, Spain and Wales. For almost 30 years we have collected information on small business issues that you can search on our member website. We also have a monthly periodical that updates members on the current business issues.
9. What tools are available?
Tools are an essential piece to help you move your business forward. At TAB, we provide an industry leader tool with TAB’s Business Builder’s Blueprint™ (BBB). A proven strategic business planning process focused on forming the business owner’s vision of leading a successful business while also leading a rich rewarding life you deserve. BBB will help you demystify the strategic planning process with a clear picture of how to achieve your strategic vision and direction. Additionally, there is the Business Builder’s Blueprint Business Diagnostic, an online MRI for your business. Assess your business, identify gaps, and focus on your priorities to move your business forward. To take the Business Diagnostic let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Typically, when I start working with business owners on a CEO Peer Advisory Board they say, “I wish I had started this sooner”, or something along those lines. Make sure you ask these questions as you are looking into joining a peer advisory board. If you have other questions, please let me know at email@example.com