Since 2008, Cornerstone Advisory Partners has run peer advisor boards, which gives business owners the opportunity to confidentially talk about opportunities, challenges and other issues with other business owners.
Below Rob Kaiser, publisher of Greater Wilmington Business Journal and an advisory board member since 2009, shares his experience about serving on a board.
The same thing always happens about an hour into the meeting.
My peer advisory board meets once a month from 8 a.m. to noon. The night before each meeting, I stare at my calendar in disbelief that I’m going to lose an entire morning of chopping away at my to-do list.
But about an hour into the meeting, I feel the mental fog lifting. Details, deadlines and other daily concerns begin to evaporate. I start seeing the forest from the trees.
Usually this happens while someone else is talking about their opportunities or challenges. Thinking about their situation lends perspective and insight to issues I’m confronting — particularly if their challenges are tougher than mine!
Think of a peer advisory board as your personal board of directors.
My board includes the owners of seven local businesses — a roofing company, financial planning firm, insurance agency, technology company, home builder, digital marketing agency and media company.
None of us are competitors. We’re in completely different industries, but nearly all of our challenges fall into similar categories — hiring, managing and incentivizing employees, evaluating business opportunities, sales, marketing and finances.
Topics can range from significantly restructuring a company’s focus to recommendations for CRM software.
Most of the meeting focuses on each person presenting an issue, and then the rest of the board asking questions and giving recommendations. I usually learn as much from the other challenges and recommendations than when it’s my turn for input.
Most of our board has been together for more than six years.
We know each other’s businesses. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We call bull---- on each other.
When somebody brings up a significant issue one month, but doesn’t mention it the next month, someone will usually ask for an update.
If you tell the board you’re going to do something before the next meeting, you strive to get it done if only to avoid having to lamely report back that you didn’t do it. This creates an accountability that small business owners usually don’t face.
Another benefit of being on the board is meeting privately once a month with the board’s facilitator.
Our facilitator, Dallas Romanowski, does a great job in two significant ways beyond running the meetings efficiently.
First, he always starts with personal goals, instead of business goals. Rather than solely considering how to maximize income, business decisions are driven by personal goals of how you want to spend your time and purse your interests, and long-term financial and lifestyle goals.
Second, Dallas doesn’t try to act like an expert in your business or industry, which he obviously can’t be. But by working with dozens of companies in a range of industries, he’s able to share ideas and lessons from other business owners with similar issues.
My only complaint about Dallas is that he’s a fan of walking meetings, so sometimes we’ll show up at his air-conditioned office in business attire on a 90-degree, August afternoon only to be told we’ll be walking outside for the next hour.
But seriously, if you’re a business owner, I’d highly recommend looking into a peer advisory board and working with someone like Dallas to keep the mental fog at bay.
The Cornerstone team includes former C-Level executives, successful entrepreneurs and advisors who offer unmatched experience in delivering advanced, custom-tailored, results-oriented solutions for business leaders. Cornerstone has worked with hundreds of companies that range from fast-growth start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. It developed the Performance Culture System™ to help clients implement best practices and drive high performance throughout their organization. For more information, visit www.launchgrowexit.com, call 910-681-1420, or email [email protected].
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