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Now that you have a solid framework for your advisory board, there are a few other points to take into consideration to stack the deck in your favor and cinch the success of your board.

What kind of expertise do you want to consider for an advisory board?

Good question! I’m so glad you asked. Based on your intended objective for your board, I’d suggest the following experts to guide your small business growth.

  • accountant,
  • business attorney,
  • marketing strategist who especially understands the nuances of consumer behavior,
  • business coach/strategist who has a clear understanding of your long-term vision,
  • human resources, and
  • any additional skill or expertise that you desire depending on the nature of your business and your goals.

Additionally, I highly recommend using a skilled facilitator that can keep things moving to your desired outcome for each meeting. This frees you up to fully engage in the meetings.

Finally, remember to have someone with keen listening skills and attention to detail to accurately capture your meetings.

Where can you find experts for your advisory board?

Your immediate network may or may not have the expertise you want on your board. If this is the case, consider asking for referrals from trusted sources.

Be sure to secure at least three potential specialists for each position of expertise you’re looking to fill so you’re not “locked in” to accept someone that may not be a good fit.

Finally, properly vet each consideration for proper fit.

Is it a okay to have “friends” on your board?

In a word, NO! Although I have to say that I have business colleagues with a high level of expertise that have, over time, become good friends. I trust them explicitly and wouldn’t hesitate to ask them to serve on my board.

Friends — or family members — may sound like a great (i.e., easy) idea but without an understanding of, or entrepreneurial experience, they may not be the most objective specialist to have on your advisory board.

How are board members compensated?

Compensation is highly recommended. Whether you pay someone a flat rate per meeting, compensate them with shares in your business, or pony up reimbursement based on their hourly rate, compensation demonstrates your respect for their time and expertise. And, it shows you are serious!

How do you ask someone to serve on your advisory board?

The approach you use to reach out to a potential board member depends on your relationship with the individual. Whether you approach them by email, phone, or over lunch, here’s a three-step approach to consider to avoid wasting their time pouring over information unnecessarily.

  1. Provide a brief statement (one sentence) stating your desire for their participation and ask permission to send more information.
  2. Assuming they say “yes,” send a well-thought out branded document of your board objective, role, responsibilities, and expectations. Include the “next steps” informing them of when — and how — you will follow up to discuss in greater detail.
  3. Assuming another “yes,” proceed to a full conversation about your expectations, and their questions, regarding serving on your board.

Obviously, this is the beginning of your journey to setting up a successful board.

Have you set up an advisory board? What advice would you share?

No matter how advanced our technology or the number of new marketing avenues invented, there’s one time-tested path that enhances business growth: the referral. Most business owners think of current clients when they hear the word “referral,” but there’s another group that can launch your brand to success through referrals—your Centers of Influence (COI).

Your COI is anyone—whether an individual or an organization—who has a significant influence in your niche and can spread the word about your brand.

According to a study done by the Financial Planning Association’s Research & Practice Institute, participants who experienced the fastest growth were 68 percent more likely to gain referrals from COI than other participants. The study also indicates that client referrals and COI referrals are the top two most crucial aspects of business growth.

With this importance being placed on referrals, what’s the best way to keep them coming to your business? It’s simple—show your appreciation.

Appreciation and Business Growth

Besides the obvious common courtesy, sending small, low-cost expressions of appreciation for referrals benefits your growth. Why? If people know you’re grateful for their support, they’re more likely to continue referring clients to you.

There’s a concept that says “business goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated.” Saying “thank you” with a small gift shows you appreciate those involved in helping you reach your goals. It builds loyalty to your brand, shows your “human” side, and sets you apart from the competition.

How do you put the principle into action? We’re so glad you asked.

Things to Remember

Giving gifts of appreciation for referrals does require a bit of brainpower on your behalf. You want the expressions to be seen as thoughtful and personal—not generic.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when deciding on referral gifts:

  • Consider if it’s appropriate. Some professionals may not accept gifts due to ethics (such as doctors and journalists, for example). Additionally, there are specific countries where gift giving is frowned upon and/or has certain restrictions regarding the gift amount. Do your homework to make sure you adhere to business gift-giving etiquette.
  • Be personal, but not too personal. A Starbucks gift card is a nice enough, but to really make an impact, be a bit more creative. If you know the client or business associate to whom you want to send a gift, give something that’s of use to them. For example, if the person loves to read, send an Amazon gift card. Just avoid intimate or overly expensive items that might embarrass the recipient.
  • Embrace the forgotten art of the hand-written thank-you note. There’s nothing better in today’s world of emails and social media than receiving a genuine, personal, hand-written note.
  • Send a gift before the referral becomes a client. This shows your genuine appreciation and implies that you’re grateful for the effort and support, not just the money.

Some Examples

There’s no shortage of items to express your gratitude for referrals that spur growth. But in case your mind is too overwhelmed for this sort of strategic thinking, here are some examples to get you started:

  • Amazon gift cards for avid readers
  • iRoller – a reusable touchscreen cleaner
  • Eua Water Bottle for the environmentally-friendly
  • A plant – signifies business growth

Whatever gift you choose, be sure it’s appropriate, personal, and thoughtful. Showing your appreciation for referrals isn’t just good manners; it’s a simple, cost-effective way to build brand loyalty and facilitate business growth.

What has been your most treasured display of appreciation for a referral you provided? Is there something special that you like to give?

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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