Developing Your Informal Advisory Board

I recently met with a colleague to discuss an upcoming project which ended in a discussion about the state of our industry.  We talked about current business models, how marketing and social technologies are changing management and how additional opportunities are popping up everywhere for all types of organizations, for-profit and nonprofit alike. As a web guy he’s got his own perspective on today’s environment and as a business development/marketing guy I’ve got mine.  We often see things differently but in most cases we find common ground on the big issues facing the industry and the changing marketplace.

At the conclusion of our conversation it occurred to me that he, like a handful of others, are a part of what I have come to refer to  as  my informal advisory board.

Web Guy (mentioned above) – I look to him to provide me with two things – the deep, behind the scenes data on webby stuff and the information, language and know how I need to better position and develop products that come out of that space. (blogs, web sites, apps, etc.)

Who to call?

Social Media Guru – This person lives in D.C. and most of my contact with her is through SM. Whenever I’m confronted with a challenge in this space or have a new idea it goes to her first.

Proposal Men (2) – One works for a large risk management/consulting firm while the other works for a large manufacturer/supplier within the oil industry. Both live and breath proposals so from time to time I bounce ideas off  of them.

Executive Director – Because I work for a firm that manages professional societies and associations I frequently engage this person in conversations about being a leader among leaders.  I look for this person to provide me with a grounded perspective on the day-to-day realities of nonprofit management.

Business Coach (2) – A financial advisor and leasing executive who both recently broke out their own. We’ll typically talk strategy,  approaches to customer service and just about everything that has to do with sound and/or progressive business practice.

Life Coach – This person serves as a general sounding board for whatever is going on. Typically it’s whats nagging me, driving my interests or potentially forcing me to make a game changing decisions.

We all have our circle of friends or advisors but rarely do we consider why we need them.  Here are three reasons why they are important:

1. Real Input – You’ll find whatever you want to on the Internet but what you can’t pull from YouTube is real input from real people that is specific to your situation.

2. Perspective – This is a byproduct of  real input and is perhaps the most critical . Your advisors can provide a perspective that you may have never considered.

3. Ambassadors – By engaging your advisors you will automatically create ambassadors for yourself, your business, and your objectives. To fully understand just how important ambassadors are to business today you may want to check out Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel, Relationship Economics by David Nour, or Socialnomics by Eric Qualman.

Today, technology makes it easy to develop and maintain formal and informal relationships.  Embedded within these relationships reside a core set of resources that can become part of an informal advisory board. By identifying the strengths of the individuals within  this group members are able to provide unfiltered input and perspective to ideas, challenges and opportunities. Building an informal advisory board and recognizing when to utilize them are essential tools in such a rapidly changing business environment.


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