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Your Business Advisory Board

Every business owner benefits from the wise counsel of a select group of experts, who offer a differential diagnosis that brings fresh air and information into the room and drags us out of the echo chamber of our auto-pilot habits and ingrained perspectives.

Fortunately, life equips us with an advisory board, whether or not we recognize it as such. Unfortunately, most of the advice we receive is bad, starting with what know-it-all cousin Howie and meddlesome Aunt Sheila have to say (those two will have you broke in six months!).

No, our real advisory board must be carefully curated. One must know whose advice in general should be heeded and whose should be ignored. The advisory board that we create can be informal. It is not necessary to charter a formal board unless the business demands it. We should consult our advisory board regularly, to find out what is new on the horizon, figure out how to solve problems faster, brainstorm intriguing new ideas and overall learn how to work not just hard, but smart.

Clients

As numerous experts repeatedly recommend, listen to your clients and receive a wealth of information. Customers give the outside-in, other side of the desk view and what they value most is sometimes surprising. You cannot always fathom what customer priorities will be and you won’t know until you let them tell you.

Customers are vital members of our advisory board. They represent the marketplace and when the market speaks, business owners must listen. Ask for customer feedback in the form of evaluations, surveys, or plain old Q & A over coffee. Ask what they like about your products and services; ask what would enhance the experience of doing business with you; ask business clients about upcoming trends and challenges in their organizations and figure out what you can monetize.

Employees

If you have employees, seek out their insights and advice on how your business protocols might be improved. Employees are in the trenches and often know better than the owner about how the business is perceived by customers. Employees are uniquely positioned to give very valuable feedback. Owners and managers should be smart enough to listen.

Likewise our accountant, attorney and other professional service providers, through the unique prism of their specialty, may offer useful advice that can have a positive impact on the business. A wise business owner creates an environment where employees and customers know that their opinions and advice are welcomed, respected and at least occasionally implemented.

Competitors

Do speak with experienced people within your industry, including competitors. Many will be happy to share a few pearls of wisdom with you, especially if they operate in another geographic locale. Marketing tips and other promotional strategies can be good topics to discuss, as could the types of services that resonate most with clients these days.

Roundtables

Additionally, you may find it useful to have also a structured advisory board experience and for this I recommend membership in a peer group, also known as a CEO forum or roundtable. Groups consist of perhaps a dozen business owners in non-competing industries. They are often segmented by number of employees and annual revenues and usually meet monthly for about 2 hours. The idea is to assemble a group of business owners who share a similar profile and who therefore have the perspective to offer relevant advice and support to fellow members.

When properly facilitated, group members function as each other’s board of directors. There is guidance and support on decision-making. Members celebrate successes. New ways to view and resolve business challenges are put forth. Opportunities may be discovered, goal setting is encouraged and members hold one another accountable for progress and achievements. Peer roundtables can provide a welcome source of support and inspiration and do much to overcome the isolation that many business owners experience.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

5 Ways to Grow Your Side Business While Commuting to Work

Before I quit my 9-to-5 job six years ago, I would dread my daily 45-minute commute to and from work. I would get frustrated thinking about all the stuff that I could be doing for my business instead of sitting in stopped dead traffic.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that your morning and evening commutes can be an EXTREMELY valuable time to help you grow your own business and escape the job world forever. In fact, that time in the car might be the only time you have by yourself for most of the day when there are very few distractions (emails, Facebook, Twitter, co-workers, family, friends, etc).

As an entrepreneur doing the side hustle with your business, you have to get good at time management really fast. That’s why utilizing your daily commute to and from your 9-to-5 job is so important. Instead of using that time to listen to your favorite music or replaying that last disagreement you had with your significant other or boss, you want to use it to learn new things and expand your knowledge.

The truth is that businesses are built on IDEAS, not just hard work. It doesn’t always require a computer or a networking event or a sales pitch to grow your business. When you expand your thinking, cultivate new ideas, get fresh perspectives, or learn new skills, you ARE growing your business because you are growing as a person and as a leader. In other words, you are increasing your “human capital” which will serve you for the rest of your life, no matter what business or endeavor your find yourself in.

Here are 5 ways you can expand your thinking and discover new ideas during those precious hours spent in the car (or train or bus) commuting to work…

1st Way to Utilize Your Commute to Work: Listen to a good audio business book

There are hundreds of amazing (and some life-changing) business books on the market. Sometimes I wish that I could just instantly absorb all the knowledge from them through osmosis and use it to take my business to new heights. But actually, listening to the audio book version is fairly close. Check out Audible for the latest and greatest business books that you can listen to instantly on your iPod or other audio device.

2nd Way to Utilize Your Commute to Work: Listen to business podcasts

Another way to utilize your commute is to listen to business podcasts. Podcasts can be a great tool to expand your knowledge and keep you on the cutting edge of business. Because podcasts are created and posted on a regular basis, they can keep you up-to-date with the most relevant ideas, newest applications, marketing methods, social media insights and other business tools (unlike books which might have dated information).

3rd Way to Utilize Your Commute to Work: Find a great audio business training course

Some of your best ideas will come from listening to business training courses. I’ve listened to courses by Ali Brown, Eden Pagan, David Siteman Garland, Naomi at IttyBiz and many others and always gained some invaluable nugget of info that takes my business to the next level. Some experts offer training courses for free, but many will sell a training course online if they have one. Choose a business expert that you know and love and invest in diving deeper and learning more from them.

4th Way to Utilize Your Commute to Work: Download the TEDtalks app

With the TEDtalks app, you can listen to the “world’s most fascinating people: education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus and music legends” anywhere and anytime right on your Smartphone. Sounds pretty good, right? This is an incredible way to cultivate new ideas and gain fresh perspectives for your business and for your life.

5th Way to Utilize Your Commute to Work: Sit quietly

Last, but definitely not least, another way to utilize your daily commute to the office is to sit quietly. How will that help you grow your business? Well, it’s difficult for new ideas to come to you when your mind is racing at a 1000 miles an hour. (And we already established that good businesses are built on IDEAS, so you need those ideas to be flowing.)

If you are constantly trying to absorb new information, working every minute, and diligently implementing new strategies, you’re not giving your brain the time it needs to catch up and you’ll end up spinning your wheels and getting burnt out (which will of course negatively affect your business). Take at least one day a week during your commute to sit quietly.