If you’ve just started a new business, you may have thought about forming an advisory board—or, maybe you’re at a point where you need an advisory board to guide your growing company to the next level. Either way, you may not know what steps to take. Here’s a guide to helping you form a board that can guide your company to success.

First steps

It’s time to form an advisory board when you either don’t know whom to ask about your business questions or you aren’t getting satisfactory answers to your questions.

Consider the types of questions you have. Do you have marketing questions? Sales questions? Financial questions? Note the types of questions you’ve have and put them into logical categories. Some areas could be financial reporting, risk management, human resources, competitive strategy, acquisitions and divestitures, technology, and governance and compliance. Once you’ve organized your categories, look for people who have those skills to join your advisory board.

Who can you ask?

Now that you know the kinds of expertise you need, you have to find people who possess that expertise. If you don’t know where to find people, don’t worry. I’ll bet that you know people who have connections to the people you want to meet.

Think about all the possible connections you have through your existing customers, trade association memberships, or even your church. There’s bound to be someone who knows a resource in sales strategies, compensation, or risk management, if you are specific when you ask.

I would avoid asking family members or friends to join your advisory board. Why? Friends and family are usually available to answer your questions anyway so they’d be taking the spot of someone who could give you unbiased information. Also, people who know you well may find it difficult to tell you answers you don’t want to hear. Save the spots on your advisory board for people whose opinions you wouldn’t get otherwise.

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How to ask so they say yes?

One of the most effective ways to get someone to yes to joining your board is to be specific about why you’re asking them. Start with a brief description of your company, if they don’t know you well, and then explain to them why the skills they possess are needed on your board.

However, if someone doesn’t know you, there is a higher chance of them turning you down. So you may want to first ask people that you already know well. Then later you can say, “John Doe, Jane Brown, and Jack White are on my advisory board. I would like you to join it as well because of your business strategy skills.”

A well-formed advisory board can help you solve your toughest business challenges. You want people to join you who you enjoy working with and whose expertise is valuable for your business. Think of your advisory board as the people who will help you make wiser decisions. And who wouldn’t want that?

RELATED: 6 Advantages of Having a Small Business Advisory Board

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