My Proficorn Way (Part 16)

An Advisory Board

When one is running a business on a day-to-day basis, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Each day brings with it new challenges to be solved. One is deeply involved in every aspect of the business. Failure often becomes personal – because one is the engine driver in a train wreck. It becomes hard to hold people accountable – because everyone is in it together. You as the leader are part of every decision, so the responsibility for failure is yours. This is especially true in the early stages of a venture.

When Netcore was struggling to grow, I decided that I needed an outside-in view. I wanted a couple of people who could provide a view at a higher-level, and question me and the team. (Since I had no external investors, we did not have a formal Board.) It was then that I decided to set up what I later called the Advisory Board. It started with one member, and has since grown to 6 members. They have no fiduciary responsibility. We all meet once a quarter for 4-5 hours where the management team presents the quarter’s performance and the plans. It has worked very well in bringing discussion and debate which did not exist earlier.

The Advisory Board is now intimately familiar with the business and the team. They bring in their own experience to give us suggestions on what to do – this is something I lack since my only external work experience was 30 years ago! There is a good mix of expertise in our Advisory Board – management, strategy, financial and marketing.

As for the team, they present the numbers and plan as if we were a listed entity – because one day we will be. This creates a discipline of ensuring targets are given – and hopefully met. For the management team, there is not just an oversight (other than me) but also insight (on what can be done better). These quarterly meetings for the past decade have been a major factor in Netcore’s growth.

I would strongly recommend an Advisory Board for every entrepreneur at an early stage. Get a few people you respect and who have diverse industry knowledge. And then make it a discipline to do the quarterly reviews. This additional layer will go a long way in identifying mistakes early and reducing the prospects of failure.

Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 17)