CEOs, business owners, and company presidents carry a heavy burden—the primary accountability for a company’s success or failure. That’s why many executive leaders say it can feel lonely at the top. But what many leaders don’t realize is that they don’t have to walk the road alone.
Most people wouldn’t embark on a long journey without a solid plan. Nor should they make important and far-reaching business decisions without seeking some good advice beforehand.
That’s precisely why many smart CEOs, presidents and company leaders seek counsel from a trusted resource—a business advisor (or advisory board). While these advisors have no authority to vote on matters (like a Board of Directors), nor do they have any legal or fiduciary responsibility, their expertise and experience can bring valuable insight to the decision-making process, and provide company leaders with sound advice to solve business challenges or reach new goals.
Why Leaders Need Advisors
If you lead a company, you already know that it comes with its fair share of challenges.
It can be lonely at the top. Many times, you have no executive peers within the company with whom you can discuss ideas, strategize plans and make important business decisions. And yet, at your level you have more business matters to discuss than ever before.
It’s hard to have all the answers. You have important questions about business strategy, market opportunities, operational challenges, the competitive landscape, personnel decisions and more—made even more difficult during a global pandemic.
Your time is limited. Running your organization is already a full-time job, with little time remaining for diligent research on strategic decisions—the very things that matter most.
The best presidents and CEOs often rely on help from a business advisor. These subject matter experts can serve as a sounding board, fill gaps in knowledge, and provide sound advice on solving challenges and achieving current business goals.
If you’re not familiar with the idea of a business advisor, here are 10 examples of what a good advisor can offer:
1. Insight for strategic planning
“Whether your organization is struggling with operational bottlenecks, seeking to capitalize on a market opportunity, or just looking to become more profitable, a wise business advisor can help you plan your strategy and think through the myriad of details,” said Kristen McAlister, President, Cerius Executives. “They can also bring your organization the expertise to help you avoid the risks and pitfalls in maneuvering through a business pivot or changes in production and manufacturing.”
An expert advisor can also help you determine market opportunities, decide on the best course of action for individual challenges, and help create a roadmap to help achieve your growth plans.
2. Help to refine a product idea or business plan
Perhaps you’re the company founder or president of a startup. You have a great idea, sales plan or go-to-market strategy. Opportunity abounds. But who is there sharpening your idea, tempering your enthusiasm or bringing a dose of reality? A good advisor can serve this role.
3. Valuable feedback and recommendations
An advisor’s specific industry experience can provide essential insight as you seek to grow, enter new markets, create new sales/marketing plans and take on the right talent to succeed. If your company hunkered down during the pandemic, a savvy advisor can lend advice on the best ways to advance your recovery with the fewest risks.
4. Unvarnished truth
“An advisor isn’t a yes-man or yes-woman in disguise,” said McAlister. “Because an advisor doesn’t make their living working for the company, they aren’t afraid to disagree with leadership, ask critical questions, challenge the business model or poke holes in your marketing strategy. They have the best interest of the company in mind. Therefore, their top priority is to provide honest answers—even if it may not be what the leader wants to hear. In the end, they can help avoid painful and costly missteps.”
5. Finance skills and access to capital
There are many facets to finance, from managing cash flow to raising capital to securing banking relationships. Although an advisor won’t solicit investments on your behalf, they often know what investors are looking for and how to best prepare for successful conversations. They know how to raise money, how to talk to investors and bankers, or know of funding sources you may not have considered before.
6. Competitive insight
If you’re in an industry or entering a new market that you’re not familiar with, it can pay to bring in a business advisor who knows the landscape, trends and competition. Their specific industry knowledge can provide essential insight as you seek to grow, gain market share, and navigate the unfamiliar terrain. Their experience can also help you create a solid sales/marketing plan, set pricing structures and take on the right talent to succeed. They even know a few strong candidates who are seeking a change.
Knowing your competitors is another critical aspect for any business. Advisors can help you gain a better view of the marketplace and illuminate potential blind spots.
7. Key partnerships
A well-connected advisor already has a strong network. Often, they can provide introductions to key service providers, experts, and key customers. Possibly these contacts may also prove useful if you decide you want to entertain a joint venture or sell the business.
If your company is a start-up, an advisor with experience in your market can lend credibility, which can help you attract outside funding, collaborative partnerships, and new customers.
9. Operational insights
“If your company has grown quickly, it can be hard to keep track of all the moving parts—from product design, manufacturing, quality assurance, removing process waste and recruiting/hiring/retaining people,” said McAlister. “Someone who has run operations in the past can be invaluable in creating a solid plan.”
10. Crisis management
In times of a failed product launch, a recall or a service that didn’t work, it’s helpful to have someone who knows how to deal with media, or how to stop a crisis from becoming magnified.
The Bottom Line
The current economic environment is causing companies everywhere to evaluate their vision and strategic roadmaps. Yet when you’re leading a company, you don’t always know what you don’t know. Not every leader has the skills, experience or confidence to make all the right decisions—at the right time—on their own.
For all the good a savvy business advisor can bring, there really are no downsides. They help you make decisions and avoid costly missteps. They bring the insight you need, when you need it – and there’s no long-term commitment to keep your advisor around forever. You can bring in a business advisor during key seasons or transition points, then leverage your internal team to execute on your strategy.
Whatever business challenges you may be facing, an experienced business advisor may prove to be one of the most valuable resources on your team—and an indispensable advocate for your success.