By Ed Marsh
Who are they & where do you find them?
Let’s be honest. Most companies select their board of advisors, whether formal or informal, from friends and peers. And realistically, how many folks seek out others with radically different backgrounds and perspectives for those groups?
Almost by definition, therefore, companies select to receive self-limiting feedback from ‘advisors’ with similar backgrounds, lifestyles, interests and experiences. And, therefore they aren’t receiving a flow of disruptive, uncomfortable, vibrant and vigorous insights and suggestions that challenge their status quo.
Further restricting the breadth of perspective is that most company owners, and therefore their peers from whom they draw advisors, are managing stable mature businesses. They may be ‘lifestyle’ businesses, or perhaps seeking adequate growth to accommodate family members and transition. In some cases they are marking time pending a liquidity event, and management focus is probably on a specific area which they find engaging.
In short, likely none of these folks are energetically pursuing bold growth through today’s effective and innovative approaches. Instead they’re typically presiding over somewhat stagnant businesses – relying on “tried and tru” methods.
Are those the right advisors?
Propeller heads or Windsor knots
In a recent blog article by that name, Josh Linkner explored the traditional conflict between product/engineering and management/finance perspectives. Writing about the value of complimentary skills in a company he said,
“Too often, we try to build our organizations with self-lookalikes because it’s comfortable, but a homogenous team brings little inspiration. Bringing divergent perspectives together will help you create your own Reese’s peanut butter cup moment. Great football teams don’t take the field with 11 quarterbacks so don’t try to seize your own potential with only one viewpoint…
If you’re looking to break through to the next level, cross into uncharted water by injecting completely different perspectives to your challenges. Your success lies at the intersection of men and women; millennials and boomers; locals and foreigners; propeller heads and Windsor knots.
It’s an and, not an or.”
While he’s focused primarily on direct employees, the same certainly applies to advisors.
And especially today, because for even the most traditional and staid B2B manufacturing enterprises, global growth and digital marketing are simultaneously critical avenues to growth, and often poorly understood by seasoned advisors.
You don’t need your board advisors to understand you…
Makes sense, right? After all these are advisors to the company, not your unpaid, golf buddy cum professional coach. If you need some help building introspective insights call your attorney, accountant or maybe a counselor.
Your advisors must help you understand your prospects
And that means who they are, wherever they are, based on where you do sell AND should (could profitably) sell. And further it means understanding how they (remember, your prospects!):
- think of problems and opportunities
- manage their work responsibilities
- research solutions
- make buying decisions
- use technology
And here’s a newsflash. Your manhattan drinking buddy probably can’t offer you that. Sure, he might have some suggestions on a great, local commercial banking resource. But if his international experience is golfing in Ireland, a river boat tour in France and an occasional cruise with Caribbean port calls, he’s not going to challenge you to consider the importance of global diversification.
Similarly if he considers his blackberry to be pretty hip, collects business cards and thinks social media is for teenagers, he’s not going to provide context for why your lame website is killing your business development.
Are the board advisors you need the advisors you have?
If you want affirmations that you are a business hero, then you may have the right group of board advisors assembled – a group that sees the world through the same lens and filter as you.
On the other hand if you really want advisors that will help you recognize and address big picture issues; that will guide you as you work to position your business for ongoing vibrant growth and viability in a digital, global world; then likely you’ve fallen short.
So maybe you have a problem…but the good news is the solution is pretty easy. Reach outside of your immediate circle of peers to find some bright, capable business leaders that will challenge your traditional perspective with insightful, legitimate business growth perspectives.
And then listen to them and understand!
image credit – discovery.com and berks.pa