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Advisory boards can be invaluable. They can also be unbearable. But either way, you can leverage their networks and knowledge to grow your business.
Sure, you may not have picked everyone sitting on the board of your company. There might have been a certain amount of obligation tied to investments or favors for former contacts. Then again, you may have stacked your deck with devil’s advocates and opposing opinions on purpose (which may not be a terrible idea). The one thing tying the group together is that everyone has a stake in your success. This is a lever you can pull to get your board to offer more than hands-off guidance.
We identified four areas where advisory board members can effectively help companies scale. If you feel like you left your last few board meetings armed with nebulous advice or your own laundry list of action items, these might come in handy.
Pump up your exposure
By definition, advisory boards include professionals with a lot of prior experience and success. They probably made a name for themselves in your field — a name that other people notice and will associate positively with your brand. And in order to get that far, they had to build up their own network of colleagues, supporters, and contacts. Now you have these assets at your disposal to build up your brand.
Ask your advisory board members to promote your company to their networks — via social media, e-mail, their personal blog, or web pages. Whenever you have a big announcement, a product launch, or a big hire, call on your board members to share the good news. When they do, other people will share it, and on and on until you have some serious buzz.
The same goes for the media. Many successful advisers will be a known quantity to journalists; they are often interviewed on a variety of topics and regularly contribute op-eds and other well-placed quotes in stories. Next time, ask them to include a reference to your business in a quote, refer you as a source to a journalist covering your industry, or even write an op-ed for the Huffington Post or an industry trade pub to extend your brand’s reach. It’ll go a long way toward getting more eyeballs on you.
Show off your stamp of approval
A lot of small businesses — especially startups or companies in lesser-known industries — struggle with credibility. Early adopters may be enthusiastic, but the next wave of customers may be more skeptical about your products or company. By making it clear that you have heavyweights on your board, you can quell some of these concerns and make it clear from the start that you know what you’re doing.
Find a place on your website where the names of your advisers can live. Share when new advisers join your fold, and consider quoting them to customers, at events, or in interviews. The more you can associate your company’s name with the know-how of a respected individual, the better. Each member of your board is a virtual stamp of approval, and you shouldn’t shy away from showing yours off.
Attract great talent
Another area where you can put your board members’ networks to work is recruiting. Generally speaking, these people will have worked at one or more companies in the past with people they like and respect. Since many of them are coming from very successful backgrounds, they can probably name at least one or two proven candidates. Pooling their collective knowledge about top performers in your industry can help you piece together a great staff.
Great employees are attracted to big names. By touting your advisory board as one of your best assets, you grab the attention of people who want to work with other incredible talent and industry luminaries. Even better, you can have your advisers reach out to target candidates and give them an extra nudge to join your team.
Solve problems before they happen
One of the reasons early entrants in a field tend to win is that they encounter and solve problems before anyone else. They have the data and the experience to navigate around similar obstacles in the future, whereas their later competitors are doomed to repeat their mistakes that will slow them down even more.
A good advisory board can make all the difference here. When you have the smartest people in your industry in your corner — people who have avoided a number of pitfalls to scale successfully — they can help you anticipate and neutralize problems when they’re still a stretch down the road. That way, you can spring even faster ahead of your competition, or catch up to a smug incumbent.
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