A few years ago my SCORE Counselor suggested that I establish a business advisory council to provide our business with a ready source of business expertise. At this time our primary business issues were: dealing with sudden business growth, taxes, and staffing. Trusting the judgment of my advisor I began researching this task. I spoke directly with at least 10 small businesses, some of them in similar lines of work and discovered that none of my colleagues had such a group in place. I wanted to understand what the value of establishing a Business Advisory Council. With all that I had to do as a small business owner I wanted to ensure that the time spent putting this group together would be worthwhile.

I established my business advisory council in 2000 and have found the value of this group to add significantly to our business profitability and strength. Since that time our business advisors helped with contract leads, and provided advice on business growth and direction and feedback on new business offerings.

Here are the 5 steps that I used:

Step 1: Purpose
Develop a purpose statement for your Business Advisory Council. Be able to answer these questions:

- What is the role of your Advisory Council?
- What strategic business goals will they address or support?
- What will I ask them to do?
- How often will they meet?
- How will I recognize them for their support?
- How do I want them to function as a group?

These questions need to be answered before any one person is recruited.

Step 2: Recruitment
The ideal size of the Business Advisory Council is about 5 to 7 members. Too large a group can be unwieldy to manage. Recruit members that represent different service or product lines of your company. All members should have business expertise and success in core markets that you are serving. Identify individuals who you have developed personal relationships with. These individuals can be former bosses or mentors, current or former customers, or friends that respect your business savvy. Be sure the relationship can stand up to criticism. The group of advisors is unpaid so you must make it clear that they what their role encompasses. Send a letter to your new Advisory Committee member after you have obtained a verbal commitment that they will become a part of the group. Your letter should outline the purpose of the council and how they should contact you and the first meeting.

Step 3: Meetings
Remember the time of this group is valuable. Meetings should have an agenda and you should stick to it. The frequency of the meetings should only be as often as the whole group will be able to attend, two or three times a year is recommended. Develop a list of Advisory Council members with contact information and share it with all members. You want to be able to develop this group as a team. On occasion, you may want to meet with individuals on issues that they offer a unique perspective.

Step 4: Keeping in Touch
Communication is important. The Advisory Council can help represent your company’s image and promote your business. In order for members to successfully advocate, counsel and promote your company they need to thoroughly understand your business. They can only do this when you keep them informed about what your company. Add them to your mailing lists. Invite them to key events. Send them copies of articles that feature your company. Notify them of special awards your company has received.

Step 5: Recognition
Remember that this group is a volunteer group. They can be compensated through recognition and by their association with your business success. You can ensure their continued commitment by making sure you:

- Respect their time
- Recognize and value their contributions
- Provide them with special volunteer recognition such as lunch, and special gifts to thank them
- Keep them informed of your progress and what you did with their suggestions
- Always thank them for their role in your company’s success

Most small businesses are isolated and become consumed with “doing their business” and “running their business”. The Advisory Council is a cost effective way to add value to your business and provide your business feedback from trusted advisors. Advisory Councils offer small businesses a personalized way to enhance your business, and get encouragement and support from caring and extended business partners who know you!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Devona E. G. Williams is President and CEO of Goeins-Williams Associates, Inc. Performance Consulting, an award winning WBE/MBE firm focusing on people, process and performance: www.goeinswilliams.com.