I’ve just finished a call with a client, that I would like to let you all know by way of a case study.

All the work I do is highly confidential, so for the purpose of this client, let’s call him Michael.

Michael owns a chain of stores in a large regional center, employing just under 100 people.

Successful, he has been in business for 20 plus years and while it may be easy to rest on his laurels, he is highly aware that the market in his highly regulated industry is changing. Nearing retirement age, Michael still has a vibrant drive toward his business; it is his legacy.

Some of the projects Michael is working on is what to do with an aged workforce and his succession plan.

In his overall marketing he is wanting to find out how his customers were feeling about the changes he had made over recent time. This project was particularly top of mind as a competitor was setting up a new business in town. Michael wanted to really get a grip on how much of a threat it was or wasn’t.

On our previous calls we had discussed putting together an advisory board.

This was to consist of  a group of local business owners what would provide some feedback on his business. As his business is something that everyone uses it was a given that they would also be his customers. Last month he decided it was time to implement this project. His goal was to have organised and held an advisory meeting by our next call – today’s call.

The experience of Michael is a wonderful lesson in asking for what you want and a study in human nature.

Michael firstly decided what type of person he would respectfully listen to and appreciate advice from.  His criteria was they

1. Had the time to participate.
2. Were successful in their field
3. Had business acumen, and most importantly,
4. Were willing

Michael relayed that he was reluctant at first how his request to people would be handled and if they would be keen to participate.  He figured he could control 1-3 but not number 4.

Trusting that he could handle the rejection if the ‘highflyers’ he had in mind said no to his idea, he compiled his list, rang them or took them out to coffee.

He targeted recently retired CEO’s and business executives from billion (yes you read right) dollar corporates along with highly successful Business Owners that had Managers in place.  They were all locals.

Were these ‘types’ of people interested – you betcha!

Not only were they interested they were committed. One even flew back home from a meeting they had had in the capital city that day to participate.

It turned out this group of people, having ‘finished’ their ‘careers’ were eager to put their skills and experience (that was now sitting on the retirement shelf) to help others.

So in a quiet country pub over a few drinks a round table discussion took place. Michael’s business took center stage and particular focus given to his current projects. He learnt what people overseas were doing differently from an ex-global executive and how other organisations are leveraging their aging work force. The added bonus was how  each participant, as a consumer and customer viewed his business and wanted from his industry.

The result – talent laying dormant coming alive again with a renewed sense of purpose and millions of dollars’ worth of consulting for free!

Where can you apply the strategy of an Advisory Board to your business?