A bit more than two years back, Bruce Gillilan, Simmons Engineering Corp. president, created his own advisory board, a mix of outsiders and senior staff. The board works well for the Wheeling company, as detailed in last week's column.
Carolyn Gable took a different approach to putting together her advisory board: She picked MasterMind Advisory Board LLC in Deerfield, and Janelle Brittain to help select and structure her board. "If I picked my own board, I was afraid they'd tell me what I wanted to hear," Gable says. "I wanted some clean, fresh eyes -- a different view."
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Gable is president of New Age Transportation, Distribution & Warehousing Inc. in Lake Zurich.
Brittain is president and CEO of Dynamic Performance Institute LLC of Chicago. She's also a member of MasterMind's executive board, an extension of a group of executives who breakfasted together and became an "informal advisory group for each other," explains Marla Glabe, a partner with Management Control International Inc., Northbrook, and a mover at MasterMind.
Ultimately, the group hit upon the idea of starting a company that would provide similar services to businesses. That company is MasterMind, which will help a business owner choose and structure an advisory board.
Here's how the process worked at New Age Transportation:
"It's important for (the business owner) to think through where the business is and where you want it to be," Brittain says. "The advisory board should be put together to help the company get from here to there.
"We interviewed Gable. Then I did a search of our affiliates (individuals available for advisory board consideration when their skills match a company's needs). She made some recommendations, and I assembled bios and gave them to her."
Gable did interviews and chose six board members. "No employees," Brittain says. "The point is for the CEO to have outsider points of view."
The New Age advisory board has met just twice, so it's early to assess how well the board works. Gable, however, is pleased. "As business owners, we get so close (to the business)," Gable says. "I want to hear from people who aren't so involved. This is a great concept."
In addition to the in-depth owner interview, MasterMind runs background checks on potential advisory board members; trains them -- "You don't run the company; you're strictly a sounding board," Glabe says -- and trains the CEO on how to manage a board.
MasterMind suggests that an advisory board have at least three members, with five to six perhaps the ideal. There's a cost for the process and for board member stipends. The MasterMind fee is about $20,000 for a six-person board that meets four times a year.
For business owners who don't want to choose an advisory board from their own circle, the MasterMind concept seems sound -- although the firm is so new that New Age is one of just two clients. Glabe says others are in the pipeline, however.
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