What’s the difference between an advisory board and a mentor board?

Many Canadian entrepreneurs will turn to others for help – experienced people who either know their industry, or have some insight into a particular aspect of business.

But did you know that there’s a difference between an advisory board and a mentor board? They sound similar, but serve different purposes. Here’s the difference between an advisory board and a mentor board.

What’s an advisory board?

Some members of your team will be members of your advisory board. These people will provide advice and recommendations to management but do not have authority to vote on or enforce any company decisions. Essentially, it’s like having a sounding board that you can turn to for input.

Usually, an advisory board is made up of experienced industry professionals that can offer some insight and expertise into company issues. Make sure that members of your advisory board are able to offer diverse skills and experiences. The members should be good problem-solvers and communicators. And don’t be afraid to ask CEOs or professionals when recruiting. After all, the worst that can happen is that they say no, and you can move on!

For a small business, usually two to five members are sufficient for an advisory board. Quarterly meetings should be held to discuss business issues. At these meetings, the entrepreneur (read: you) will usually treat the board to lunch or perhaps pay an honorarium for their time and contribution. Be sure to prepare your questions ahead of time for the meetings to avoid wasting time. Consider what you really hope to get from this board. Think of the sort of advice or feedback could they give that will help your company be more successful than it would have been without their help.

What’s a mentor board?

Aside from a board of advisors, it may also be beneficial for your company to have a board of mentors you can call on for advice and guidance.

Mentors should have experience with entrepreneurship or with your specific industry. A mentor can be someone for you to turn for answers, opinions and support — something you don’t always have when you are the boss! Mentors will help you learn from their mistakes and expand your social network. Usually, a trusting longterm relationship is built with a business mentor as a role model.

Choose mentors based on their ability to contribute time, valuable opinions, enthusiastic and positive support, and constructive feedback. Look for mentor programs or search through your own network to see if there are any professionals you already know that might be willing to mentor you. And don’t ignore your gut feelings here. You should be able to trust your mentors with guidance about your livelihood — if your personalities clash, it won’t work.

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How can you find a business mentor?

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A business mentor or advisor can be an invaluable asset to the success of your business. With a mentor, you can ask questions about thorny issues that you’re stuck on, or talk through some strategies. A mentor or advisor isn’t part of your management team, and they can help you be more successful than you could be without their help.

So, how do you find a business mentor? We’re glad you asked! Our GoForth Expert Norman Leach has some helpful tips for finding a mentor for your journey as an entrepreneur. Check out his advice here – and good luck!

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White rabbits: target marketing

A while ago I was interviewed by Community Futures Centre West, one of our strategic partners, and was asked to share the best piece of business advice I’ve personally received. I’m fortunate to have a large network of supporters – all bearing excellent words of wisdom – to tap into, but here’s something that really stood out for me:

My own business advisor (and everyone should have an advisor, no matter how seasoned an entrepreneur they are) once told me the field is full of white rabbits. Pick the white rabbit you can catch and go after that one. In other words, there are opportunities and potential targets everywhere. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Everyone will buy my product!” Focus, focus, focus.

Pick the one segment you can catch and forget all the other rabbits until you’ve got that initial target in the bag. Don’t waste your time and money chasing a field of customers, randomly and frantically. They’ll slip through your arms and you’ll end up with nothing.

Quite often new entrepreneurs tell me their target market is “anyone who’ll buy my product” or “anyone who’ll hire me!” Avoid the financial heartache this type of approach brings and instead, thoughtfully identify one specific rabbit to start with, then go after it. After the experience of capturing your first customer, it becomes easier and easier to attract more.

For further reading, check out a previous post titled What’s so important about your target market?

Happy rabbit hunting!



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