Written by construction business development professional Matt Matson
Actively leveraging an advisory board or council is an excellent business-development strategy and one that I highly recommend. Made up of prominent executives with significant business stature, an advisory board can provide you the experience, insights, and connections to land big deals.
However, if you are looking for an advisory board to be the panacea for all your business development deficiencies, you will be disappointed. Here are three unrealistic expectations of advisory boards that you should keep in mind while managing them for maximum efficiency:
1. They will bring you deals! They are there to advise you on deals that you bring up to them and to help you land those deals. While on occasion they may bring you an opportunity, it is unrealistic for you to expect them to drive opportunities to you. They can help you open doors, so use them to do so, but don’t expect any gift-wrapped deals handed to you.
2. They will carry the relationship. They won’t. Only a select few (if any) will be interested in developing a relationship with you beyond their advisory board duties. You will need to invest in these relationships, particularly when they are new to you. That means that you will have to take the initiative to call them, schedule lunches, and activities on their calendars (get on the good side of their admins) and make sure that they can make the advisory board meetings. Remember, these are busy executives running businesses of their own.
3. They will stay engaged without getting something for themselves. While board members may be well intentioned, the “What’s in it for me?” principle applies here. Make sure they have reasons to stay engaged. Confirm your executives will be at the board meetings. Engage a group of executives that can equally benefit from each other — don’t have board members from just a few industries or disciplines. And, yes, have regular, engaging meetings at destinations that board members will want to go to. They don’t have to be in Hawaii in January, but a club or restaurant with a private dining room should be a staple.
Advisory boards can be an effective sales tool for your business. However, they are not substitutes for the business development work that must be done every day to be successful. Use them wisely!
Robert “Matt” Matson has over 25 years of executive operational and consultative experience in business development and marketing with start-ups to Fortune 500 companies including: Kennametal, Belkin International, CDW, Motorola, Ingersoll Rand, Novartis, Pepsico, SAIC, ABB, Sealed Air/Diversey and most recently with JP Cullen. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 262.290.1555.