Advisory Boards: What, Why, When, and How

What is an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board is a group of trusted mentors and advisors who provide you with guidance and feedback, based on their skills and interests. An Advisory Board has no governance or fiduciary responsibility, although many Advisory Boards transition to Boards of Directors over time, as a company matures. Advisory Boards are in place simply to advise. Advisors add value by asking the tough questions at the right time, helping you to find the answers. In fact, their most valuable contribution may be to ask probing questions, rather than “provide advice”.  

Why should my business have an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board can bring broad skills, experiences, and credibility to a business and its owners, depending on the Board’s composition and mandate. If chosen carefully, an Advisory Board can provide access to specialist and generalist skills not held by the owners, decades of experience in the right industries, and a network of connections for building your business. Simply having an Advisory Board signals your willingness to seek outside counsel, an important attribute when looking for new investors and business relationships. An Advisory Board can help provide you with the discipline to periodically re-assess business strategy and success. Having to succinctly describe your business challenges to your Advisory Board will help you tackle them successfully.

When should I set up an Advisory Board?

An Advisory Board should be established at the earliest practical time. Although you may believe that you don’t have time to set up and maintain an Advisory Board, you should quickly see better decisions and accelerated success by bringing more brains to bear on your challenges. Expenses are generally limited to travel and meeting costs, because most Advisory Boards aren’t paid, at least not initially. Time and money should not be constraints. 

Who should be part of my Advisory Board?

Advisory Board members should bring skills that complement your own, filling gaps in functional areas such as strategy, finance, marketing, and technology. At least one of your Advisors should have deep knowledge of and connections within your target markets. Look for a variety of skills and perspective among your Advisors. Try to explicitly define knowledge gaps and search for the right individuals. Keep the number of Advisors to a modest level (3-6). Having too many dilutes individual relevance and challenges quieter members to be heard. All your Advisors should be strong communicators, with great networking and listening skills. Avoid celebrities, unless you are confident these individuals will remain actively engaged. Remember that prospective investors often will want to speak to your advisors, so make sure yours are all active and up to date. Finally, make sure that your Advisors support your company values and remain excited about your company’s success.

How do I find and appoint Advisors?

Individual Advisors are typically recruited informally, often following a successful business relationship or through networking. This works fine until you decide to bring your Advisors together for a common purpose, such as reviewing a product launch strategy. At this point your advisory relationships need to become more formal, through a simple letter outlining elements such as time expectations, meeting frequency, expense reimbursement, deliverables, termination, and term expiry dates. Developing a consistent letter for all Advisors will help ensure unity and consistency in Advisory Board operations.

How do I compensate my Advisory Board Members?

Initially you need not expect to compensate your Advisors except for expenses and meeting costs. Be careful to not expect your Advisors to freely provide services (e.g., accounting) for which they normally charge other clients. When you reach the point of compensating your Advisors, more-formal contracts will be needed. Eventually you may wish to invite one or more of your Advisors to join your Board of Directors. This could happen when you secure significant outside investment or begin to hire middle managers. Compensation, when implemented, could involve retainers, meeting stipends, stock options, etc. Stock issues, if used for compensating Advisors, should be kept modest and symbolic (e.g., 0.1% per year served). Even though you will not be financially compensating your Advisors initially, look for ways to acknowledge their contributions, such as through client introductions and referrals, recommendations, and feedback on the effectiveness of their service.

How do I operate my Advisory Board?

At the outset, Advisors need to be provided with a good understanding of company vision, core values, and business strategy. This information should be provided in written form about a week in advance of the first meeting. Adequate lead time is needed for review, allowing the initial meeting to focus on discussion, rather than presentation. The initial meeting should be face-to-face and have a formal agenda, allowing each participant adequate time to interact with others and establish comfortable communication. Allow 2-4 hours for this meeting. Most subsequent meetings can be virtual, once this comfort has been established. Face-to-face meetings are not needed more than once or twice per year. Between meetings, Advisors can be kept abreast of company progress through periodic reports. Advisors should be contacted when and as needed, keeping communications responsive and relevant. Advisor engagement ought to be straight-forward and compelling.

Are you passionate about your business?

That can seem like an odd question to some business owners. They don’t see themselves as passionate about selling automotive supplies, doing tax returns, or cleaning houses. These individuals often go on to tell me they do it for money and security; they are in this business because it provides them a living, and they certainly aren’t passionate about their work.

Interestingly, businesses owned by these people tend to operate satisfactorily at best, providing adequate customer service sufficient to sustain the business at a modest level. Sound mediocre?

The truth is, the owner’s passion goes a long way to determining whether a business will excel, or merely survive.

The automotive supply store owner who is genuinely committed to seeing her customer leave the store feeling great that he has the solution to his steering issue is passionate about helping people solve DIY problems with their cars. In turn, her customers are enthusiastic about the service she provides, building the store’s positive reputation. The store owner who isn’t passionate sees the customer as just another clunk who doesn’t know what he is doing. Even if the customer leaves with the right solution, he is likely frustrated by the owner’s bored or even condescending attitude. The store’s reputation remains merely adequate, at best.

The accountant who is passionate about ensuring his clients get the best possible tax advice will ask the right probing questions of his clients when they show up to have their tax returns done, making sure that all the relevant information is used. He will also offer suggestions about business and bookkeeping practices that could have favorable tax implications for future years.The client is confident that her accountant has completed the tax return accurately and is sincerely interested in helping her business perform better. The complacent accountant will take the information provided by the client, check for completeness, request missing pieces, and crank out yet another tax return. Guess which customer raves to her friends about the great service.

The house cleaner who is passionate about his work gets satisfaction from the knowledge that his customers’ expectations have been exceeded. He relishes the genuine joy and pride that the customer feels when her home has been cleaned so well. This house cleaner has very low client turnover, a loyal staff base, and a backlog of clients wanting his service. The house cleaner who sees her business simply as a way to make a living struggles to keep both clients and staff, as she continually pushes to find efficiencies (i.e., cut corners) in her engagements.

The examples above are composites based on real business owners I have encountered, both passionate and otherwise. There is a common thread in the passion displayed. It’s all about the customers. All three passionate business owners are truly committed to helping their customers have the best possible service experience. Their passion for great customer service drives business success. Those who cannot find passion in their businesses are doomed to mediocrity.

Now, can you find something to be passionate about in your business?

Your 60 Seconds of Fame

Here is a bit of glimpse to what it’s like at a Business for Business Networks meeting. We have 60 seconds in which to educate and captivate our fellow Business For Business Network members and guests.

60 seconds to help them understand what we can do, and how we can help them and their customers. To demonstrate we are the BEST at what we do, so they can recommend us with confidence.

Are you doing at that in your business? Do you have knowledge and practical tips that would improve the lives and businesses of other members? Do you have stories that give us insight into your world?

The point of Business for Business Networks is firstly to build relationships, and knowledge, and work through roadblocks we face with trusted business peers through round table conversation, to become better business owners and professionals. Second, it is to build our businesses by being recommended by others who trust us.

We gain and build trust by getting to know each other and watch each week, as everyone demonstrates how they are an expert in their field, and offer advice to one another at the round table.

Last week I let loose a bit of a rant in our Low Town Business for Business Networks meeting, which turned into a great discussion on our updates and infomercials and how to improvxe them. I thought I’d share the gist of it with you all.

The Problem: I don’t really know what you do and what sets you apart.

The Solution: Use your 60 seconds to tell us:

  • What’s one aspect of your business? Capson Electric is the top rated installer of NEST systems: what is NEST, that you are such an expert at?
  • How do you do stuff? I described part of my digital painting technique at Blue Heron Art to show how complicated it is.
  • How have you been a hero? I still remember how Iris Mayfair saved a marriage with eyeglasses.
  • What have you done for a customer? Vancouver Island Osteopathy has “fixed” all kinds of joints and muscles and ailments.
  • What sets you apart? Comfort Keepers uses iPads for up-to-the-minute communication.
  • What do you know? Kristen Yarker constantly gives dietary tips that proves she is the number one in knowledge.
  • Who loves you? Share a testimonial.

In other words:

  • Assume I know nothing about what you can do or how smart you are, but I WANT to.
  • Tell me, piece by piece, not just once, but repeat in a few months, because I forget.
  • Take the time to plan and practise – will it fit in 60 seconds? What is the important bit?

Tell me a story, week by week, that shows how awesome you are, and I will recommend you whenever I get the chance.

This is how businesses grow naturally and form loyal customers, be proud of your business because you are working hard to be the best at it.

Don’t be scared to ask for recommended and testimonials from happy clients and customers – you earned them!

If this post makes you want to drop into a Business for Business Networks morning meeting contact one of the leadership team of the group nearest you!

Personal and Business Issues in Coaching

business and personal coaching with Don Goodeve

Working with a client recently, he remarked at the end of a particularly powerful coaching session he was amazed to find how many of his ‘business’ issues were actually personal issues in disguise. I do not think this any accident.

An amazing thing about our minds and the way we are in the world is how we do not compartmentalize nearly as much as we think. We may come in through the door at 5:30pm and ‘leave work behind’, however it is the same being that is now operating in a different environment. Can we really expect who you are ‘at work’ and ‘at home’ (or at the bank, the gym, the doctor’s office) to be so different?


Superficially; at the level of content these can look very different: handling a direct-report regarding a work milestone or your son about cleaning their room. Coding or cooking dinner. Talking to your significant other or planning a business meeting. However how you are being in all of these situations is intimately related. At a fundamental level your mind does not distinguish; how you are here is how you are everywhere.

So whether I am coaching someone to a milestone in building their business or supporting them in creating an action plan for them conquering a fitness goal – the conversation is fundamentally the same. If you are holding back or under-performing in one place, it is likely that the same patterns of thinking and behavior are surfacing in many other situations too.

The great news is taking on those issues in one area and creating a breakthrough is not localized to just that area. Life cannot help it – you create a breakthrough here, you create a breakthrough EVERYWHERE.


So to the core point – how do you know if you are facing a business issue or a personal issue? They are, I assert, ALL PERSONAL. Concentrating on the business at the expense of the personal does not work. Coaching the personal in the context of business does.

So – how does this apply? If you or someone in your organization are getting stuck on business challenges; then working on process without focus on the personal may yield limited results, and the results that come may be unsustainable. Same person, new process – the person implementing the process will leave their indelible imprint on it. Conversely, you shift the person – this imprint will shift. It may have nothing to do with the process. You shift the person, you shift their results everywhere.


If you call forward the creative engaged individual the organization gains by both shifting the immediate issue AND by accessing the fully engaged focus of an empowered human being. The results of that double-shift are both bottom-line and PRICELESS!

It is all about people – coach people and see profound business results…

Work, Life, Balance???

Work life balance play in business

How come we make these things different? You have probably heard the quote:

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony

I think there are many ways to read this. One of them is – ‘I am having no fun – therefore I must be in the wrong job or doing the wrong thing.’

A variation on the theme is that work is ‘Work’ and play is ‘Play’ and the two are clear, distinct and separate. In this model, ‘Work’ carries with it a tinge of ‘suffering’. It is really easy to follow this with all of the reasons why you have to stick doing what you are doing – and so the cycle continues. You get to be right about how it sucks and suffer it. Or is it just me who left to his old habits does this :-).

Now, don’t get me wrong (I am a coach after all – change is the game…) it may well be that a change in career or starting the business you really want is the next thing to do and leave this one behind – however bear with me. My thinking is that ‘Job’ being ‘Work’ in which you are ‘Stuck’ in might have something for you.

Two things I have been reading and listening to have come together in a new way for me. The first is from Tara Brach (whose podcasts I thoroughly recommend – where in a recent talk she drew a distinction between ‘aversive judgment’ and ‘wise discernment’.  The other comes from Michael Singer and his bestsellerThe Untethered Soul. In a nutshell – events happen – and they become problems where we resist them – and the resistance is all our stuff. To put it another way – no resistance; no problems. Easily said – right?

Taking these distinctions into the ‘job’ that is ‘work’ – from ‘aversive judgment’ it may there to just be struggled through and survived – that you cannot be with it, or your co-workers, or your customers, or the daily grind, or all four… Your buttons get pushed – your stuff – your resistance. From here there is no space or freedom – it is a trap, a cage that you survive to keep the paychecks rolling in. After that you really need downtime and rest so you can just continue doing it. Is this ‘work life balance?’. Now let me be clear – it is not your fault that the job shows up for you like it does (nor anyone elses’) – it is just that is how it shows up for you. Period.

From a place that you can take responsibility for your stuff, the job becomes a place where you can see your stuff playing out. Things happen – you get triggered. And from there once you see it, you actually get to choose how it goes. Are you going to have your stuff dominate how the experience goes? Or are you going to see it as just your stuff and work with it? This is where resistance comes into focus.

Resisting life is hard work. Life is an infinite stream that keeps flowing no matter what we do. Resisting is trying to hold back a tide that is infinitely and forever coming in. We tend to resist it where our stuff gets triggered (we all have stuff – even the Buddha had stuff…) and we try to somehow manage it to make it better. What if it was just okay that our stuff got triggered? It is just stuff after all – stuff we made up, beliefs about how it ‘should’ go and what is the ‘right’ way for things to work out.

From aversive judgment – we make the job, the boss, the client, the circumstances wrong – we blame and get messy. And we are busy resisting it which takes even more energy. No wonder we suffer the experience!

The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” – Edward Gibbon

From discerning wisdom – we see that we get triggered – and we experience the wind and the waves. From there we have choice. How do we want to be with this experience? We can go down the reactive route or stay elevated where there is choice. From this perspective there is still the possibility this may not be the job of your dreams– where all of you gets to be put at service of your greatest and most heart-felt contribution to the world. Or maybe from elevation it is clear that it IS and you need support to get from your current experience to a more satisfying and empowering one.

So what about work and play? My invitation is to look at where you resist life and create work. If you take away the resistance, all there is left is play, and you get to never work another day in your life… Easily said right? Perhaps time to have a conversation with a Coach (just sayin’).

How about giving up the unwinnable fight for work-life balance and create a life of play instead?

Owning Your Results – Owning Your Success

Someone Else’s Problem

I have had many conversations as Coach that surprised me – one of them was with the CEO of a small company regarding a business issue they were experiencing. When challenged, their flat claim that there was nothing they could do about it. They did not like it when I reflected back to them that it was a really interesting thing for the leader of an organization to state.

None of us are immune from not owning our results.

I think most of us have had the experience of working inside an organization and blaming it for how things go. I know I have. ‘The management did not understand what we were trying to do, did not provide the resources needed to make it happen’ etcetera.

Seen from another angle, I was not creating the results that I wanted or said I was committed to. A natural human response is frustration and anger. In an organization we can allow ourselves to be ‘right’ and victim to the organization by blaming the organization for how things have gone.

They ‘own’ how we have performed is the story.

Now Who’s Responsible?

Transplant yourself into the position of entrepreneur – especially solo entrepreneur. Now what do you do when things do not go the way you want them to? When you do not create the results you are committed to? Where do you put that frustration and anger? Unless you get creative with the outside world so you can blame it, a typical way for things to go is to blame yourself.

Getting caught in this trap saps enthusiasm, energy, joy and drives up whatever strategies we have developed through our lives to feel better about ourselves. Often this shows up as ‘must work harder!’ and before you know it your dream of freedom through having your own enterprise is turning into a nightmare of catching up, not taking breaks or holidays, living from some variation of – ‘this will only work if I work more!’. So much for the freedom of the entrepreneur!

The Ownership Plan

Here is a 5 step plan to keep you out of reaction and in the inspired action that will actually create the results you want:

  1. Get your thoughts and feelings about how things have gone out of your body and your mind! Get a clean sheet of paper and fill it with all the anger, frustration, blame, nastiness that you can muster to get all of the emotion expressed. Just let it flow until there is nothing left. No one is ever going to see this paper except you. Give yourself full permission to vent it all.
  2. Consider that not generating a desired result is just that – not generating a desired result. What were you playing for? What did you generate? What is the gap? Get clear on just the facts. Note: If someone apart from you cannot measure it, it is not a fact.
  3. Take a 5 minute break to just relax, breathe and be.
  4.  Now, considering the result(s) you want to create – what is next? What are the next actions you can take that will move you towards the results that you want?
  5. Take the next action.

And – take a dose of Vitamin S: GET SUPPORT!!!!

Having someone or a group to share your experience with is really important. Someone to help normalize the experience (we have all missed creating what we intended at some point – if not a lot of points!), help you get clear on what is next and help you get ‘outside of your box’. Someone who is going to come to your pity party might be fun for a while, but if all you do is end up agreeing whose fault it is that things have gone as they have gone – you will just stay where you are.

Someone who is willing to reflect how great you are and support you in keeping going no matter what will make all the difference!

And if you really want to accelerate your results – working with a Coach can be magical!

Getting Past ‘Fault’

Not creating the results you want is ‘not your fault’ (or indeed anyones fault; like ‘success’ or ‘failure’, ‘fault’ is just another story…) – it is simply not creating the results you want. Allow your feelings and humanity. Write it out – put on loud music and dance that stuff out of your system – go beat up a pillow – whatever works for you. Refrain from blaming yourself, others, the weather etc… (which puts the cause for your results outside of yourself). Determine what is next and do that and get supported!

This is all part of ownership. What you own you have power over. Your results and the life that you want are, believe me, something you really want to own!

In my next post I will be talking about work and play, and how us creating them as separate things holds us back from having a truly delicious life.