ADVISORY BOARDS (vs corporate board)?

By Greg Niemi . February 5, 2013

Boards present an unsettling contradiction to many independent business owners.

Gavel, Board of Directors IconOn one hand, owners like the notion of a board to provide outside input, guidance and accountability.  Yet, on the other hand, many independent business owners quickly dismiss this notion the moment they think they may have to report to someone else.  This contradiction is the nature of being an independent.

My dad, who was an independent business owner all of his life, would say to me on several occasions “you can always tell an independent, you just can’t tell ‘em much”.  He would most often make this remark right after one of the factory reps was leaving his car dealership.  This saying has always resonated with me.

On one hand this expression is extremely good.  First of all because an independent is truly an independent by their own choice.  They are entrepreneurs.  They had the guts to get into their own business.  They are rogue in a good way because it is their business and they want to do it their way.  I have also learned throughout my career that it usually is best not to dictate ways to independents.  Independents prefer input and guidance rather than being told what to do.

Whereas, on the other hand, this expression can also be destructive.  Defiance is good only to an extent.  Most others do have good ideas to share with us as independents if we choose to listen.  More often than not there are good kernels of thought buried inside what may first appear to be a bad idea on the surface.  Much like a diamond embedded in a piece of coal or a vein of gold laced inside a stone.  At a minimum, thoughts shared by others (e.g., advisors, peers, board members) should always be taken into consideration.  Al least, sleep on it.

The fact is an independent business owner may have the best of both worlds when it comes to boards.  An independent can have an advisory board to provide a constant flow of ideas, guidance and construct without the angst of being micromanaged or fear of having to report to someone else.  And, by the way, a healthy construct helps all of us stay grounded – much like a high performance vehicle needs some coefficient of drag so it doesn’t go flying off the road.

Furthermore, on an abstract aside, the topic of the independent mindset also reminds me of an old Bob Dylan song:  you “Gotta Serve Somebody”.  Even an independent has to serve somebody:  a.k.a. customers, employees along with the livelihoods of its owners, employees, their families, customers and any other vested stakeholders.

Given a choice – an advisory board is a great choice for your business versus going it all alone.  I have gained much experience from being on both sides of the board table.  I will have more blogs to follow regarding how to get the most out of boards.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

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