What Should A Small Business Board Of Advice Be Talking About?

What Should A Small Business Board Of Advice Be Talking About?

“You need an advisory board” is something I’ve heard a bit in the market place. It’s something I tell my clients, it’s something the QLD state government will provide up to $10,000 in funding to under the Accelerate Small Business Grants Program, but it’s something I fear doesn’t get the return on investment it should.  And in my opinion one of the key detractors of the meetings is lack of a thought-out agenda. Too many meetings are spent shooting from the hip, addressing the bug bear of the day, but completely ignoring the real issues. An advisory board is more than just a chat. It’s not suppose to be therapy or even business coaching. It’s suppose to be a board that helps the business achieve its vision. You know like a real board they have in big companies.

Do you really think “big” companies come unprepared, with no agenda, just having a chat about whatever has been bothering the CEO this last month? I know they have more resources than you, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to get this right. It’s just a bit of planning.

So spending a bit of time now to plan out the issues that need to be discussed and when will ensure you’re covering the wide variety issues that come up in business across the course of the year.  Too busy? Don’t know where to start? No worries, grab our Board Meeting Agenda Template and customise it as you need to.

What should the board of advice for a small business be talking about?

In my opinion it’s grouped under 4 categories;

  1. Finances
  2. Operations
  3. Strategy
  4. Governance

Finance

Each meeting there should be a review of the financial performance since the last meeting.  However this time shouldn’t be used to analyse the results, that should be done before hand.  This is time for a discussion of the results, concerns, congratulations or any corrective actions.

To do this, you obviously need to have a pack of management reports compiled by a certain date each month to give each board member sufficient time to review them.  These reports should contain commentary from your finance team to assist the non-accountants understand what the reports are saying so they can act on them. Questions in regards to the accuracy, reliability or meaning of the data should be answered before the board meeting.

In addition to the performance reports there needs to be time set aside for the other financial matters that occur during a year such as reviewing and signing off the annual financials and tax return, preparation of the annual forecast, and consideration of the tax planning recommendations put forward from your accountant, along with any dividends or distributions that need authorising.

In our sample you can see our preferred timing of these topics, but again, this is entirely up to your business.

Operations

Topics to include here should be departmental. That is, regularly review the performance of the different departments, what concerns they have, resources they need, KPI’s etc.  In our sample we have used;

  • IT (issues, resources needed, IT strategy review etc),
  • Marketing (KPI management, marketing strategy review, performance v action plan etc),
  • HR (any HR issues, staff morale/survey’s, staff events etc),
  • Production (people on the tools, or customer facing), and
  • Talent Management (staff reviews, strategic hires, team shapes, team sizes, promotions etc).

But you can insert the functions specific to your business here.  You should be aiming to review each function 3 times a year, this gives enough time to get stuff done, but not enough to get too far behind or off track.

Strategy

These sessions give you time to consider the current strategy, its performance and what can be done better or needs to change. In our 5 Steps To A Better Business process, this is the “advance” step. By setting aside time to review progress on milestones and KPI’s you are continually working towards your vision, and by setting aside time twice a year to consider the broader strategy, and the process used to develop it, you will be continually improving the organisation and its processes.

Governance

Governance contains all the legislative and risk areas.  Topics to consider here would be a review of the legislative framework around your industry/business (think Privacy Act, Tax Act etc), any changes being considered, along with reviewing your internal processes and documentation (such as employment agreements, Internal policies etc) to ensure that your business is compliant and using best principles to mitigate risk and the damage they can cause.

By using a meeting rhythm you are ensuring your business is not only meeting regularly, but the time is spent effectively, and productively on the wide range of issues that your business needs to address.

Need help with your board of advice? 

About the Author

Nathan Watt
Managing Director at Watson & Watt

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