Marnie Ochs Raleigh, CEO of Evolve Systems, and company are celebrating a 10 year anniversary this month. Marnie and husband, Don Raleigh are invested in the community and importance of relationships within the small business community. Marnie has frequently mentioned the importance, as a business owner, of forming a small advisory board to surround yourself with professionals that help grow your business. We sat down with Marnie and asked her to share some of her thoughts.
- Q: Where do you begin when gathering this group of professionals?
- MR: The first place to start with is the services professionals that you should be talking with prior to making any business decisions, such as your banker, CPA and business attorney. Then select influencers whose strengths or knowledge base would complement your weaknesses. An influencer may be a marketing professional, an insurance agent, a staffing company, an IT consultant or even a competitor.
- Q: In bringing a small group together as an advisory board – do you have a tip on something ‘not to do’.
- MR: Time is money. An advisory board is sharing their time to help you grow your business. Do not show up for the meeting not prepared. If they have given you “homework” or research to do, make sure it is done and feedback is sent back. Follow-through is very important and if you get assigned a deadline, make sure you meet it! Some of the information you learn may not be what you want or expected to hear, do not discount the advice. If you feel the feedback is not relevant to the situation, remember the advisory may not have the entire picture. In situations like this, kindly move the topic to the “parking lot” and discuss it in depth after the meeting.
- Q: Best piece of advice you’ve received?
- MR: Some of our Advisor Board members are clients. Their advice is priceless in how we offer customer service, our communication methods and also price points. Financial conversations and business development have been key for our strategic planning sessions.
- Q: It’s been said that advisers or mentors frequently learn as much as the person they are assisting – ‘reciprocal wisdom’, if you will. Do you have an example of this?
- MR: When we have hosted our advisory meetings we have a questionnaire that gets sent out prior to the meeting, we ask the answers be sent in at least one week before the meeting, this allows us to investigate the responses and define questions. Our advisors learn a great deal from the wisdom everyone can share about multiple topics, all the answers are shared at the meeting which provides a tremendous amount of insight. Many tidbits can be repurposed to any type of business. Since the inception of our advisory board, we have made deeper relationships with the members, grown business and also assisted several of our advisors in forming their own group. It truly is a win-win opportunity.
- Q: Do you serve as an adviser for other businesses? If so, what is the most rewarding aspect that in turn makes you a better CEO for Evolve Systems.
- MR: Serving as an advisor is a huge compliment and I am active with many boards. A reward for sharing my time is the ability to learn from someone else’s mistakes and also help celebrate their success. Many times, business owners share the same struggles, having a friend “at the top” is priceless and it’s good to know Evolve Systems has many champions.
Please watch for our next Blog installment; Google Alerts: What are they, how could they benefit my brand and business, how do I set them up?