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An advisory board can be a helpful resource for a business at any stage of growth. Whether you’re launching a brand-new startup or looking to exit after a period of successful growth, getting advice from experienced leaders in your industry can help you reach your goals in the most efficient and well-planned way.
If you’ve never built a board of advisors before, it can be challenging to identify the right members to bring on. Below, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council each share one essential trait of a quality board advisor and why this trait makes them an excellent asset for your business.
Young Entrepreneur Council members discuss the traits that make up a good board advisor.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. They Challenge The Status Quo
For me, it’s important to find someone who likes challenging the status quo and is not held back by the “good old ways” of doing things. The business world is entering a phase of fundamental upheaval as we grapple with the climate crisis, which means we need to completely rewrite the “handbook for business success” that’s been tirelessly followed throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. On our board, we need people with a belief that we can make a positive difference and have some ideas on how to get there. – Robin Saluoks, eAgronom
2. They Have A Different Personality Or Expertise Than You
Board members need to be different from you in at least one way, whether that be personality or expertise. The idea is that they have achieved different aspects of your vision in their own way and can provide different perspectives that you would otherwise not consider. For example, if you are a logical, results-driven thinker, it may be beneficial to have at least one board member who is an emotional, people-first thinker. Although a good board is one that can work together, harmony is not necessarily the goal. Your board advisors need to challenge you to see other possibilities and ensure that you are considering paths that may be viable even when they are not your expertise. – Liam Leonard, DML Capital
3. They Have Strong Communication Skills
When looking for a board advisor, it’s crucial to look for someone with strong communication skills. It’s not enough to hear that action needs to be taken; people want to know why. A good board member can articulate their position and share their knowledge and experience with others at the table. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
4. They Possess A Deep Passion For Your Industry
First and foremost, you want to find a board advisor who is passionate about your idea and industry. This passion will ensure that they’re fully invested in helping you grow and succeed. Additionally, a good board advisor should have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with you. Their advice can be invaluable as you navigate the often-challenging world of business. Ultimately, you want a board advisor who believes in your vision and is willing to fight for your success. With the right advisor by your side, anything is possible. – Abhijeet Kaldate, Astra WordPress Theme
5. They Come With Years Of Experience
You want someone who has weathered many storms before. After all, you are adding them to your board to help you run a company and to lend advice when needed. Advice is usually asked for when the company is going through a rough point or an extremely important time. Someone who has been through struggles will be able to offer personal advice, and your company will be able to gain knowledge from this person’s past experiences and lessons learned without making the same mistakes. – Mary Harcourt, CosmoGlo
6. They Can Solve Problems
The most important trait that I would look for is their ability to solve problems. Since the candidate has an advisory role, it’s essential that they know how to come up with viable solutions when help is needed. For this, they would need in-depth knowledge of the respective industry dynamics, expertise and past experience to devise data-driven strategies. These specified characteristics make a candidate best suited for the business. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. They Can Share Valuable Insights About Your Target Market
I’ve heard of cases where board advisors get appointed even when they don’t have any experience with the company’s target market. That’s a huge mistake. The whole point of having a board advisor is to get an outsider’s perspective on the business, and if they don’t have any experience with your target market, they won’t be able to provide that. Look for a board advisor who has experience with your target market and who can offer valuable insights. Sometimes this can be a retired competitor, an academic, a media expert or somebody who has worked in a similar industry. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
8. They’re There For The Right Reasons
I’ve been on a lot of boards—some of them terrible, some of them great. The difference was the members’ reasons for being there. If board members are there for the accolades, the ego-bolstering “I’m on the board of directors,” then their advice and decisions will all link back to increasing their own ego. Great board members have zero ego or need to be there; they’re seated next to you because they want to see the company succeed, and they’d be the first to let themselves go if they felt they were holding your company back. That said, don’t confuse high confidence with ego-driven board members. It can be hard to differentiate them. The best way I’ve found is to simply ask them why they’d like to be on the team. If it’s for accolades, let them walk. If it’s for the business, hire them! – Jonathan Sparks, Sparks Law