TIP OF THE WEEK Suggestions from a Panel of Experts on Advisory Boards Reasons for Having an Advisory Board * It's lonely at the top. * Outsiders with a commitment to the company can add perspective, problem-solving ability, expertise, strategic thinking, and a network of contacts that complement those of an able CEO and top management team. * Different visions of the future between generations and predictable differences between family members who are active in management and those who are not can be positively influenced by the facilitating, moderating, cajoling, and professionalism of a board. Conditions Necessary for an Advisory Board to Be Effective * CEO/family must be willing to share information (e.g., financial information, business plan). * The CEO must make board members feel welcome, be willing to involve them in the business, be honest with them, and expect them to be loyal critics, not a rubber-stamp board. * The CEO and board members must do their homework - they must be prepared for meetings and be available for follow-up action and ongoing coaching. What an Advisory Board Can Do for a Family Business * Assist in planning for the future * Provide help with objective financial analysis, its review, and its implications * Assist with strategy and product/service development * Help the CEO establish and review goals (but not set or dictate goals itself) * Suggest ideas on how to make processes, relationships, etc., better * Assist in networking with CEOs and partnering with and benchmarking against other companies * Help in choosing a successor * Hold CEOs, successors, and top management accountable Meeting Schedules and Agendas * Typically, meetings are scheduled quarterly. The board is convened more frequently during growth or conflict. * The focus is on planning for the future, not rehashing the past. * Factual history and financial information are provided in materials prepared for the meeting; they are not rehashed in long discussions or presentations and so play a minimal part in the agenda. Ernesto J. Poza.Family Business 2nd Edition. 2006. Thomson South-Western. p230.