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Does Your Small Business Have an Advisory Committee?

March 8, 2010

“I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.” –Woodrow Wilson

Have you ever considered forming an advisory committee for your business?  What about joining a group of fellow business owners to brainstorm about your business ideas?

This past Friday morning I attended a sounding board/brainstorming meeting of an e-entrepreneur group for business owners, consultants, entrepreneurs, spearheaded by Pittsburgh Technology Council member Joseph Nardone and his company called The Computer Consultant Team.  http://www.teamcct.com/.

These brainstorming meetings are held at 2000 Technology Drive in Pittsburgh’s Technology Center (PTC), quite a fitting venue.  Until this past May, I had driven past the PTC  every day for five years (when I lived on Pittsburgh’s Southside), but never had the need to go inside one of the modern, green, shiny-looking buildings.  The Pittsburgh Technology Center (PTC) is an office park located in the South Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania within walking distance from downtown, riverside, off of 1st Avenue.  PTC is a hub of advanced academic and corporate technology research.  Currently, two universities and seven companies occupy the space, including the University of Pittsburgh Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering and the Carnegie Mellon Research Institute.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_Technology_Center;http://www.ce.cmu.edu/Brownfields/NSF/sites/ptc/info.htm#A1.1.

The PTC is also home to the Pittsburgh Technology Council, an organization that is the principal point of connection for companies from four primary clusters of the technology industry that are represented by a critical mass of businesses in southwestern Pennsylvania including, the Advanced Manufacturing / Materials, Green Technology, Information Technology and Life Sciences sectors.  http://www.pghtech.org/

Located on the site of a former Jones and Laughlin steel mill, the PTC is an example of “brownfield redevelopment” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownfield) and with more than 1,000 people working there, PTC has become an attractive location for “knowledge workers” in Pittsburgh’s “new economy.”

What a beneficial brainstorming meeting it was!  The meeting was 2.5 hours long.  Participants were encouraged to discuss issues of concern to them and their businesses.   There were 8 of us, I think.   Acting as “knowledge workers”, we talked about many things, but the topic this month was “how does your business generates leads.”  The group functioned as an advisory board, of sorts.

BUSINESS OWNERS:  To what extent are you reaching out to fellow business owners and leaders  to vent your business issues or interests?   Have you ever considered putting together an advisory committee to brainstorm with people who care about your business’s long-term success?

Distressed businesses, in particular, are encouraged to do this.  See Save Your Small Business: 10 Crucial Strategies to Survive Hard Times or Close Down & Move On by Attorney Ralph Warner & Bethany K. Laurence, J.D.  (from Nolo Series) http://tinyurl.com/yd2mdfy [AMAZON link].

In the Nolo book,  the authors state that depending upon the size and sophistication of your business, participants might include other shareholders or members, an investor, family members, key employees, key suppliers, key customers and contractors.

This e-entrepreneur meeting was the first of its type that I have ever attended as a business professional and now as a business owner.  The offices of the Pittsburgh Technology Council were so fitting.  The design of the space, green glass, clean lines, fresh, contemporary, forward thinking.  Even the art collection on the walls emotes creativity, Pittsburgh pride, innovation, strategy.

In the past few weeks, I have been thinking quite a bit about the value of an advisory board (separate and distinct from a formal Board of Directors). The more I read, the more convinced I am that every small to mid-sized business should have one.

SEE OTHER articles re: advisory boards:

http://www.sjaccounting.com/news/advisoryboardnov.pdf

http://www.elpasoinc.com/readArticle.aspx?issueid=275&xrec=5015

As an aside, I have to mention also that this was the first morning meeting that I have ever attended during which chocolate chip cannolis were served (I am so glad to be back home).  Notably, Joe opened up the meeting with a new rendition of NY State of Mind (revised to relate to Pittsburgh instead). For Pittsburgh aficionados, see YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxx5BrrmHU0

If any one is interested in attended one of these e-entrepreneur meetings, reach out to me.  They are the first Friday of every month (generally).  I will post the next one on the “Resource Center” tab to this blog.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 9:03 pm

    Great Post. I will pass this information on to my clients.

    • March 17, 2010 12:21 am

      thanks so much. love the name of your firm. i look forward to getting to know your businesses better.

  2. March 16, 2010 6:08 pm

    I have been brainstorming ways of getting these ideas across to my clients. Thank you for the information.

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