Five Things to Consider When Forming an Advisory Board

Dr. Stephen Marshall, Chair ETSU Mass Communications, MarketingMel advisory board member

Dr. Stephen Marshall, Chair ETSU Mass Communications, MarketingMel advisory board member

When it comes to flying solo as an entrepreneur, always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are! One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is through the creation of an advisory board.

Now that MarketingMel is celebrating five years in business there is one thing I can point to that was a *really smart” move.- Forming an advisory board. Imagine my delight when I opened this month’s issue of Success Magazine, and found an article by Emma Johnson titled, “How to Form an Advisory Board.” Ms. Johnson asks several insightful questions and interviews three entrepreneurs about their advisory boards. Well, Ms. Johnson, since we didn’t get to speak, here’s the MarketingMel story!

I formed the MarketingMel advisory board in January 2013. It’s comprised of three men and three women, all very successful in their fields. When I’ve mentioned having a MarketingMel board at public speaking engagements people always are interested in how I went about forming the board, who I asked and what they do. Here are five tips:

1. Invite people who complement your skill set: One of my board members, Dr. Stephen Marshall, was recently promoted to the position of Chair of the newly created Mass Communications Department. Just yesterday we got together at Starbucks and brainstormed with one another. He says I help him keep in touch with the real world (he also consults with a large ad agency) and he helps me keep the pipeline open to fresh, young talented PR majors!

2. Seek board members who will tell you the truth (not your  friends!) Do I have broccoli in my teeth? As one of my other board members describes it, you need people who will tell you if you have broccoli in your teeth. Honesty and candor are important in this role. Since then I have affectionately referred to my board as “the broccoli board.”

3. Listen to these business leaders’ advice: When your board members make suggestions, heed their advice. The whole reason you invited them to your board is that they are smart. I actually have a “to do” list from by last board meeting that I’m working through.

4. Connect your board members with one another: In addition to helping you/your business, make it so that your board members can connect with one another. We’ve all learned so much sitting around the table together and sharing.

5. Vary your meetings: I find that a combination of phone calls, Starbucks one-on-one sessions and full board meetings work well. I like to keep in touch with my board members in some form on at least a quarterly basis.

Do you have an advisory board? What has worked well for you?


  • Sue Painter says:

    It’s not my biz model to work with a board, although I sometimes think of my mastermind groups as a “board” of sorts. Great tips here for working with your board members, though.

    • maryellen says:

      Sue, I think that your mastermind group sounds fabulous! I agree as long as we have people we can trust and learn from that will help us grow.

    • maryellen says:

      Sue I suppose both work as long as we seek outside counsel.

  • Jessica says:

    I was going to say the same thing as Sue… I consider my mastermind groups and teams my “BOD”, and I must say, I love how varied your topics are. You always give such good information!

    • maryellen says:

      Thanks Jessica. As long as we have some advisors no matter what we call them it’s important! Glad you find the content useful.

    • maryellen says:

      Jessica, I appreciate the hat tip and am glad you find the material useful.

  • Perfect timing as I am considering creating an Advisory Board for my business

    I see you listed them in your announcement blog but don’t see them listed elsewhere on your site. Was this a strategic decision?

    I’d love to hear some of the practicalities too – are they paid? do you have them sign a NDA? do they sign a committment document (for say a year)? anything else?

    I’ve served on the board of non-profits which is a little different but did sign a NDA and did commit to a 2 year period of service


    • maryellen says:

      Trudy, quite frankly you have raised some excellent questions! Here are my answers:
      1. I DO need to showcase the advisory board more formally on my site. Right now three of the board members are showcased on videos on my home page but I need to draw more attention to them. Thanks for the suggestion!
      2. They are not paid but I try to be generous with regular small gifts (Panera Bread and DD gift cards for example)
      3. I have not asked them to sign a NDA but that is definitely a good idea. The people I’ve selected are people with whom I’ve stablished great trust. Still, I always use and NDA with interns, etc.
      4. All of them with the exception of the one who moved seem to be up for a couple of years of service. Your question makes me think that a rotation establishment would be excellent. Thanks for the thought provoking questions Trudy!

  • I’ve never thought of my business as needing an advisory board but Trudy brings up some great points. Maybe you could write a post about that and share it? I’d love to hear the answers.

  • Great answers, thank you for sharing what you do. This is definitely something for me to think about and see how it might be a positive compliment to my business.

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