Earlier this year, I found myself in a little bit of a quandry. When I first started out I used to go to conventions and workshops where I would learn a lot, and soak up lots of amazing information. But in the last few years I had a hard time finding educational resources that challenge me. I have stopped attending photography industry workshops or conventions all together, unless I am the one who is teaching. As one of the highest grossing studios in the country (according to PPA), we are naturally driven to innovate and challenge... most of which happens internally within our team during staff meetings.
But I knew that as other small businesses are concerned, I still have plenty to learn. The largest photography studios are very small in comparison to most small businesses when it comes to total revenue, marketing reach, staff size, and the challenges that come with increasing all of those aspects of a small business.
A friend made a suggestion to me to start an Advisory Board for my business. An Advisory Board is composed of people with a genuine interest in your business and a desire to see it do well. Two to three people is sufficient for an Advisory Board for a small business, but I chose four. You may wonder where to find people who would be willing to help you but there are many recently retired executives and managers who might be interested. Many of these people may be in your client base, neighbors or family friends. You might want to think about people you know or vendors you use (since they have a vested interested in seeing you be successful). Choose people you admire that you think you will be able to develop a relationship of trust with. There's no harm in asking, and you may be pleasantly surprised when they accept.
Everyone I asked has businesses much larger than mine, and I was really surprised as to how honored they were to be asked to be part of the group. Here's a quick overview of how I structured it:
- no compensation but I will most likely provide a small thank you gift at the end of the year
- everyone signs a non-disclosure agreement so you can share finances and strategies freely
- quarterly meetings, and I will prepare a written overview of what is going on for the business to review before we meet
You need to be prepared to be completely open and frank with your Advisory Board, sharing both your hopes and your fears. They won't be able to advise you properly or well if you hold back. The key to an Advisory Board is to surround yourself with people who will not let you fail.
If you have a completed Strategy Avenue business plan, this is the perfect thing to give your Advisory Board as they will most likely want to see your business plan in order to help you. I update my business plan every January so that is what I will be giving the group before our first meeting. I have found already that my Advisory Board's desire to help me is so inspiring, and I have already learned so much from the little time they have given me.