A good Board of Advisors will do more than give you input — it will illuminate what you can’t see.  Think of it as a gift to yourself on the road to success.  Note:  if you want a BOA to really serve you, I’ve found it best to check the ego at the door.  Happenin’ though we may be, you’ll get a lot more from a BOA if you approach it with humility and let the wisdom of its advisors teach and influence you.  Which is a fabulous way to roll through life in general, but that’s another blog.

So, what’s a BOA?  A group of people that you select to give you guidance on your business.  This is not a corporate Board of Directors that has decision-making ability for your company.  Formal or not, volunteer or paid, small or large, you can set it up in a way that’s comfortable for you and the advisors.  Yours truly has a BOA of 4.  I didn’t set out to find four, I just kept my eyes and ears open for people who blew my doors off with their smarts, savvy, and experience and who seemed kind and open to passing some of their knowledge along to me.  I also liked each of them as people, and I got the sense that the feeling was mutual.

My BOA works something like this:  We don’t have agreements drawn up, but we do meet consistently on a quarterly basis and at their convenience.  If there’s something that comes up between meetings that I’d like to discuss, I send an email.  I meet with each separately.  One person is long distance and she and I ‘meet’ by phone.  Another I meet more frequently, usually every other month or so.  Two are in the coaching profession, although we’re not competitors.  Half are men and half are women.  One is the president of her own highly successful technology services company, another has a background in the VC world and is semi-retired.  The common denominator is that when I met each of them, I knew I could learn a ton and I wanted them on my team.  I show up at our hour-long meetings prepared with questions that are usually emailed in advance.  We start with an overview of where I am and challenges I’m facing; I ask lots of questions.  And then they tell me what they see.  I want them to poke holes, shine the flashlight where I haven’t, and challenge my thinking.  I’m not looking for cheerleaders (although each does that in their own way – thanks, guys!).  I’m looking for insight.  Any contacts and connections they decide to share are bonuses and not expectations.

That’s my set up, but I know a highly successful entrepreneur who put together a much more formal BOA that met once a month as a group, with NDA’s and other agreements in place (never a bad idea) and each was paid for their time, including the entrepreneur’s brother, who sat on the Board as a regular member.  Formal or not, sitting on a BOA is a commitment of time and information, which is a lot to ask of someone.  I’m always respectful from the outset about parameters and expectations and ask that the advisor refine things to suit their needs.

Building a BOA is a fantastic opportunity to short-cut your learning curve and your business’ trajectory to success.

Bring That On!

Stay tuned: So many of you are asking for secrets to success in entrepreneurship that I’ll be featuring Lessons I’ve Learned as a regular part of the blog.   

And coming in the Spring of 2012:

The Entrepreneurial Excellence Program

If you’re looking for a business coaching program that’s jam-packed with guest-faculty entrepreneurs, who are out there doing the real thing, then look no further.  If you want to put a foundation of excellence in place to propel your business and are ready to get street-smart and savvy, with best practices for running your own money-making, still-have-time-for-life business, this program is for you.  And if connecting with other entrepreneurs gets you fired up, they’re here.  This is where business practical meets passionate possibility.  We’ll get down and dirty with the nitty gritty of business, and we’ll integrate that with the creative, passionate, visionary part of you who wants to be a successful entrepreneur and inhabit a joy-filled life.

Think of it as Mastermind meets MBA.  In the real world.

Seating is limited.  Email me with questions and to get your name on the information list.  sarah@sarah-levitt.com

But, if you can’t wait until spring and you’re ready to take things to a new level in the new year, click here to learn more about 1:1 business coaching and to set up a consult.  And then get ready to rock!