A peer advisory board can be thought of as something like a Board of Directors at a large corporation, except that it’s a collective group of individuals representing several companies. The function of the peer advisory group is akin to a Board of Directors in that it considers business situations from members of the group, and offers advice or recommendations on how those situations can be resolved. This kind of pooling of minds can be a godsend to a small business owner who might not have any other resources to call upon when things get difficult. Her are some of the ways a peer advisory board can help your small business.
Entrepreneurs learn faster from each other
When you’re the head of your own business, you probably aren’t learning a lot from employees who are below you on the organizational chart, especially if they have even less experience than you do in the business. But when you regularly meet with leaders of other companies, and sometimes from industries outside your own, the potential for learning is vastly accelerated. Tapping into the accumulated wisdom and experience of others can provide a wealth of information about how to handle business problems, what to expect from the market, and how to avoid predictable pitfalls.
Some peer advisory groups invite business ‘coaches’ or mentors into their group for the specific purpose of providing business insights to one or more of the individuals in the group. This type of business instruction usually takes the form of general advice rather than industry-specific recommendations. For instance, in a broad context, a mentor might recommend that a businessman adopt a strong customer retention policy, because over the life of a business, it could result in greater average order amounts, and much greater total sales per customer.
One of the big drawbacks to asking people from your own company how to manage a situation is that their responses can never be entirely unbiased. There will always be the undercurrent of ‘talking to the boss’, which can influence anything being said. For honest, uncolored advice, your peers can be a much better resource, because they have no vested interest in steering you one way or the other.
Facilitated peer advisory groups
Some peer advisory groups retain the services of professional for-profit facilitators who are often experts in their particular industries, and can offer the benefit of many years of experience. These facilitators can engage in one-on-one sessions when specific issues need resolution, or group advisory meetings for more general approaches to business issues. Having access to business pros who have already had a track record of success in industry can be priceless to a small business owner who needs a helping hand.