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Carolyn Moncel

Creating a "Mini" Advisory Board for Your Business


The Eight People You Need to Keep Your Business on Course for Success


by Carolyn Moncel


I know when most people think of corporate boards, they probably envision Fortune 500-conference rooms filled with stuffy, old men, legal counsel and investors discussing annual financial reports and stock options. However, the picture that I want to paint is far less intimidating. In fact, creating the board that I have in mind is an achievable goal for most any small-business owner. All you have to do is bring together a small group of people willing to help you grow your business by investing a little of their time and brainpower.


Your board of directors basically is an informal group of colleagues, business associates and friends dedicated to helping your company succeed. Armed with their own experiences they come together as a brain trust to help you make sound business decisions. The group should be equally comprised of established business people (mentor or former employer) and professionals (attorney and accountant), along with a few key people whom you find most trustworthy, namely a spouse, sibling, parent or best friend.


Over the last two years, I've discovered that my board should be large enough to allow for different perspectives and opinions, but small enough so that I'm not receiving information from too many sources. That's why "eight" seems to be the magic number. This is not to say that I never seek advice and counsel from other sources, but I have created an environment where these people work seamlessly together on a single purpose: to keep my business on the course to greater success.


So who is on my list and why? I'll share with you below:


  • An Attorney: Sound legal advice is imperative when you're running a business. Without a capable attorney, it's impossible to navigate the business world and avoid pitfalls without someone well versed in the law and how it pertains to you and your business location.

  • An Accountant: You must be able to gauge profitability and loss. You also need someone who can advise you on what can be legally deducted from your income taxes.

  • A Financial Planner: Since you are no longer an employees, you have to know how much is needed for retirement. In addition to showing you how to keep your company liquid and socking away enough money for retirement, a financial planner can evaluate your level of insurance coverage - paying special attention to disability insurance because in the virtual assistance business, we rely on our brains and our hands, so we have to protect them.

  • A Career Coach: You need someone to help you articulate your business goals, formulate a plan and hold you accountable for achieving those goals. This is the one person who will surely tell you "You Go, Girl!" when you need a cheerleader."

  • A Sibling, best friend or spouse: No one knows you better than a close relative or friend. They know what you are capable of achieving, and they know when you're not tapping into your full potential. A close relative will tell you the truth rather than what you want to hear. Plus sometimes in business, candidness coming from a close relative is more palpable than hearing it from a complete stranger. If you want to try out a new marketing idea, a close relative is more likely to not only tell you what they really think about your idea, but why it's not likely to work. They will likely brainstorm new ideas with you as well.

  • A Mentor: Whether you've been in business six months or six years, it's never too late to benefit from the experience of others.

  • A Client: Sometimes you need an honest perspective from the client's point of view. Use that one client with whom you have a particularly close relationship to learn how to improve your current services or introduce new ones that will benefit all of your clients as a whole.

  • Your Assistant (Virtual or otherwise): If you think about it, most small-business owners hire assistants to remove administrative obstacles so that they can can concentrate on improving or expanding their companies. What they often forget these days is the fact that assistants often have backgrounds in a myriad of different industries. Working in the business on a daily basis, assistants are also great problem solvers. Your assistant can provide insight on vendors and clients that you, the owner, might miss.



Two heads (or eight in this case) really are better one. So often as a small-business owner - particularly if you are a home-based independent consultant, you lose your sounding board once you go solo. Therefore, you can no longer throw out ideas to co-workers while chatting by the water cooler; call impromptu meetings for the purpose of brainstorming; or garner advice from trusted supervisors or mentors to ensure that you're making the right decisions.


As a solo small-business owner you are on your own, but it doesn't have to be scary thing. If you receive nurturing support from a "mini" board comprised of people who can be cheerleaders as well as realists then you will not only gain a firm grip on how your business works, but both you and your company will stay on course to greater success.


Carolyn Davenport-Moncel is president and founder of Mondavé Communications, a global marketing and communications firm based in Chicago and Paris, and a subsidiary of MotionTemps, LLC.
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