Part 3: How to set up an advisory board

By Matthew Pringle - November 13, 2018

Part 3 in a six part series - 'The ins and outs of advisory boards' - on establishing advisory boards for small and medium enterprises.

Having recognised the value of advisory boards (Part 1) and identifying that the business is at a point where it would benefit from the input of such a group (Part 2), a business needs to lay the groundwork to establish a high performing group.

Getting ready

A business is ready to set up an advisory board when they can answer the following questions:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish?
  2. What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  3. What opportunity are we trying to exploit?
  4. What resources will help us achieve our goals and address our needs and opportunities? Where are our gaps?
  5. What role could the advisory group play in helping us achieve these goals?
  6. What are the challenges and opportunities in designing and managing a group?
  7. What skills and resources can we allocate to manage an advisory board?   
  8. Will the group add sufficient value to justify the investment in time, cost and effort?

Setting up and recruiting

Because there is no legal or formal definition for advisory boards, this panel of experts and their remit can be structured in the most appropriate fashion for the business. Key steps in setting up an advisory board include:

Step 1:

Develop a case for establishing an advisory board:

  • Identify the gaps, challenges and opportunities in your business and/or market

Step 2:

Define the purpose of the advisory board:

  • What does the group need to accomplish?
  • How will the group be made aware of their purpose?

Step 3:

Establish expectations of the advisory board:

  • What is their term of office e.g. 12 or 24 months?
  • What is the expected time commitment?
  • How often does the advisory board need to meet as a group?
  • How often should the advisory board members be in touch in between meetings (e.g. over email or video conferencing)?

Step 3:

Define the roles and responsibilities of the advisory board:

  • What is the role of an individual member?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities for the group? For example:
    • Developing an understanding of the business, market and industry trends
    • Providing ‘wise counsel’ on issues raised
    • Providing insights and ideas which can only come with distance from the day-to-day operations
    • Encouraging and supporting the exploration of new business ideas
    • Acting as a resource
    • Monitoring business performance
    • Challenging management to consider options for improving the business

Step 4:

Recruit candidates:

  • Create a list of candidates for each business requirement
  • Recruit them and send a letter of engagement or appointment

Step 5:

Congratulations! You are ready for your first meeting.


Read Part 1: Advisory board vs board of directors – defining the difference

Read Part 2: Do you need an advisory board?

Coming up next - Part 4: Establishing guidelines for your advisory board

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