Who should I select to advise my small business?

Photo depicting ASBAS advisory session.
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Who should I select to advise my small business?

One of the most common phenomena we observe when reviewing small business – business plans is the absence or insufficiency of an advisory board.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Business owners have a natural tendency to engage ‘downwards’ i.e. contractors & employees who are less experienced than them (at business strategy/management) but not ‘upwards’ i.e. business advisors with considerably more experience / alternative perspectives.
  2. Business owners can assume that engaging someone with more entrepreneurial experience will make their journey more expensive, if not prohibitively so.
  3. Business owners fear that the mistakes they are making will be ‘exposed’ and they will be ‘judged’ by more experienced advisors. 
  4. Business owners fear that advisors will find fundamental weaknesses in what they are doing.  

During WestTechFest in Perth, November 2020, successful tech startup founders were asked to comment on what had made them successful. At least 3/4 of them used one word, team. They weren’t talking about the product development team. They were talking about their management boards. The issue is that most startups and small businesses don’t have a fully-fledged board.

Successful small business management boards usually consist of directors, advisors and ‘lead advisors’. This group of 2 to 6 people will bestow upon the business owner(s) the firepower and diversity of experience to succeed. 

Within this group you will need people with both deep domain expertise and hands on experience commercialising new products / services.

If your advisors and directors come from a corporate background with little or no startup/small business experience they may be considerably less useful. Startup/Small business mode is very different to operating at the big end of town, surprisingly there is very little similarity. 

Interim Advisors

You might feel that your business isn’t ‘big enough’ to warrant the official appointment of a Board of Advisors and you might be right.

Sometimes, as a business owner you just need a few hours of focussed advisory in order to make significant improvements to your business. 

Having someone on hand to discuss your business challenges and objectives can be an extremely helpful way to navigate impasses, find new avenues for growth and solve chronic/acute business problems. Sometimes you don’t have the expertise to address the challenge of the day!

That’s all well and good right, but how can I afford these people? 

The good news is that, if you’re an Australian small business or startup you have access to a lot of high quality advisors for either free or at heavily-subsidised rates through the Commonwealth Government’s ASBAS program for a maximum of 24 contact hours. 

Working with highly-experienced advisors is a healthy business practice because it means you are being proactive and growth-oriented rather than survival-mindsetted. You are constantly having your ideas and assumptions challenged.

Through the ASBAS (Australian Small Business Advisory Services) program, advisors are available if and when required, making them cost and time effective. If you are new to the ASBAS program, you can even get your first 1-on-1 or 1 to many session for free. The idea is to tap into Advisors expertise and advice on demand. 

Business Station, in partnership with RDA Brisbane and Treeti Business Consulting deliver the ASBAS program in WA, QLD and NT and are well placed to recommend which ASBAS-certified advisors to engage with. 

Other ways that business advisors can be utilised to create ‘business value’ and structure are through their:

  • Knowledge, skills & frameworks
  • Networks
    • paths to early adopters
    • paths to the mainstream market 
    • path to investors
  • Unique experience
  • Decision making ability
  • Ability to coordinate your journey

One of Business Station’s key roles in the small business ecosystem is to match-make business owners with proven advisors. These advisors need to match the current needs of the businesses undergoing acceleration and be engaged in a way that creates ongoing value. 

Your free Business Needs Assessment

Business Station often finds that it is easy for startups & small businesses to overlook some business fundamentals… because there are so many facets to consider. However, this situation can often be easily fixed/rebalanced by a business advisor through our ‘General Needs Assessment’ or ‘General Strategy Consultation’.

Concluding Thoughts

By involving highly skilled & experienced advisors proactively we increase the likelihood of small business success by accelerating the attainment of their personal business objectives.

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