The most important business lesson I’ve learned is also the best advice I can give someone starting out in their business venture. Engage a mentor or board of advisors.
When we first start out, many of us feel we know what to do and understand what it will take to overcome challenges and build a successful business in our given field or industry. We’ll believe we will be able to figure out any problems or hurdles along the way. I’m here to tell you life’s tuition can be very expensive. The price can be years of lost revenue growth and unanticipated expenses that can result in losing the business altogether.
When I started my company, I knew about mentoring and that businesses often engaged boards of directors or advisors. However, I didn’t take advantage of these resources until much later in my business’ lifecycle. Looking back, that’s something I would have done differently for a number of reasons. While availing yourself and your business of a mentor or board of advisors at any time will be beneficial, it’s most critical during a company’s infancy. Just as a newborn baby requires an extraordinary amount of time, care and constant oversight, so does a business.
It’s hard to put a price on surrounding yourself with wisdom and experience from people who have been there and done that. It’s invaluable. They will share their experiences and that of others, along with advice on what to do—and sometimes more importantly— what not to do, so that you don’t have to learn the hard way.
1. Increased bandwidth
They can also increase important bandwidth. While you may be extremely smart and savvy, trying to manage a team and an organization and all of the critical decisions that come with it on your own, can quickly drain your bandwidth. There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” There’s great wisdom in that statement.
2. Greater accountability
A mentor or board of advisors can also create greater accountability. While you’re holding your employees accountable for their roles within the organization, who’s holding you accountable?
It’s a wonderful experience to meet with your mentor or board of advisors on a regular basis to report your latest successes and progress toward your goals. It can also be quite humbling when your scorecard doesn’t come in as anticipated and you’re being told so. While it can be painful at times, remember, these people are advocates for your success, and the success of your business. You want them to level with you and hold you accountable.
3. Checks and balances
Lastly, a mentor or board of advisors can serve as a check and balance. We all have egos. It can be really valuable to have access to resources who can look at the same challenge from a different lens and suggest other ways to possibly solve a problem or create an opportunity.
If you haven’t done so already, I would strongly suggest engaging a mentor or business coach, especially in today’s unusual business environment. If it makes sense for your business, engaging a board of advisors may also serve you well, especially since you’re able to choose advisors with experience across multiple disciplines. This includes areas where you or team members may lack expertise. This will serve you well both in times of need and times of opportunity, helping to accelerate your growth and mitigate risk to your organization.
To learn more about establishing an advisory board for your growing business, download our article, Getting On Board.
Investment advice offered through Planned Financial Services, a Registered Investment Advisor.