smarties“Board of Advisors.”

It sounds so official, doesn’t it? And perhaps even expensive.

Well, if you’re in business, you probably need one. Either an official board, or an unofficial set of go-to smarties; but one way or another, you stand a much better chance of success if you have good people giving sound advice along the way.

How many people have blown up their businesses or run themselves into the ground, only because they didn’t have someone alongside to say, “Perhaps you should consider this instead…”

The fact is, no matter how smart we are, we’re all quite limited in our perspective. We “can’t read the label of the jar we’re in.” We’re too close to our own stuff to have an objective understanding. So having outside voices is a critical element to making good business decisions.

Here’s what your board of advisors can do for you:

  1. Provide a level of quality control and insight for big decisions
  2. Give practical advice about getting through roadblocks
  3. Provide a needed kick in the pants periodically when you’re not being courageous enough to succeed
  4. Suggest new resources or make referrals/connections with valuable people
  5. Refine long-term strategy and direction when the way forward is unclear

Having advisors is not only valuable in the start-up phase, but also throughout the life and growth cycles of the company. A fresh set of eyes will often more readily identify a problem, come up with a solution, bring to bear a fresh resource, or spot a new opportunity.

It’s a great idea to have some sort of clear-thinking, diverse group for occasional Masterminding sessions. For instance, I find that the gathering of business leaders at the annual SOBCon conference is an excellent way to achieve this. Great friends can be made and deeper collaborations forged by these get-togethers. (Why do I guest post on Carol’s blog? We met at SOBCon!)

Often, you’ll settle on a small handful of people who will be your “inner circle” of advisors. These trusted souls know you, understand your business, and are willing to say what needs to be said – both hard truths and timely encouragements. And having a reciprocal relationship with some of them is also highly recommended. You have far more valuable perspectives than you might know.

Online tools, such as video Skype and Google Hangouts, make it that much easier to gather people virtually for planned or ad hoc brainstorming sessions. I mastermind with a small group regularly using Google Hangouts, and it is incredibly valuable for mutual encouragement, and for generating targeted business referrals.

Choose your offerings – yes. Choose your clients – yes. Choose your message – yes. But don’t leave out choosing your companions for the journey. They may end up being the best decision you ever make.