How peer advisory boards benefit your business & how to pick the right one

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Business is lonely, and it can feel like there’s always a new hurdle or challenge to overcome. The thing that makes it lonelier is that when those challenges come up, you can find you have no one to talk to. Sure, you can chat with your best friend or someone in your family, but unless they’ve done what you’re doing right now – it can be hard.

Normally, they don’t get it. And with not getting it comes well-meaning advice that misses the mark. They’re trying to help, but they can’t because they haven’t been there.

That’s where advisory boards come into play. They’re not just for the advisory side of things. They’re an opportunity for you to meet other business owners who get it and to create a network of peers you can count on when business gets tough.

So, what even is a peer advisory board?

It’s a group of business owners who get together each month to talk business. It’s more than a catch-up at Thought Pilots, though. It’s in-depth discussions, it’s the sharing of vulnerabilities, and it’s a group of peers coming together to solve business problems – big and small.

Every advisory board will be different, and so will its structure, its monthly meetings, and what’s actually discussed.

Here’s what Thought Pilots’ advisory boards look like:

The Board
It’s made up of eight business owners from non-competing yet complementary industries.

The Meeting
Each month, the board meets for in-depth business discussions. Every member brings their own unique struggles and perspectives, and as a group, they tackle each challenge head-on.

The Discussion
No topic is out of bounds. We cover mental health, financial and strategic direction, and tackle problems and challenges any of our members are currently facing. Usually, your thinking is what gets you stuck in a situation, so it only makes sense that a fresh perspective is what will get you unstuck.

Who are these boards for? Who will benefit from them?

Business owners who want to take it to the next level
You don’t have to be a struggling business owner to benefit from an advisory board. Running a business is hard.

You’re the one who’s there for your team, on the ground doing the work and tidying up the spreadsheets at night. But who’s there for you?

When you have new ideas, who do you share them with? When you face serious roadblocks, who are you chatting them through with?

Advisory boards are the place business owners can turn to for sound advice and support from people who get it.

Business leaders & managers
You don’t have to own a business to benefit from an advisory board. If you manage or lead a business, then you’re probably facing similar pressure and challenges to our business owner members.

Entrepreneurs & sole traders
There are a few differences between a business owner and an entrepreneur or sole trader. The biggest one, though, is that life as an entrepreneur can be even lonelier.

The stakes can feel even higher, and there’s no one to lean on or turn to for advice. Advisory boards create a network you can lean on when the going gets tough.

What’s the difference between an advisory board and a business coach? Which is better?

A business coach is an individual who works with you in a mentor/mentee capacity. They use their specific set of skills, knowledge, and experience and apply that to your business challenges. Business coaches are there for you to get advice from, soundboard ideas with, and work through issues with.

Advisory boards work with a similar goal in mind. The difference is that they’re made up of peers – business owners just like you. And rather than one person’s specific business acumen, you’re learning from a group of people with different experiences across a range of industries.

If you’ve got a coach and you’re happy with them, that’s awesome. You can do both, and a good coach should encourage it. Because an advisory board offers a holistic overview of your company, helping you make sure all plates are being spun simultaneously.

By just focusing on one element of your business at a time, you can find yourself running up each end of the seesaw fixing issues. Just as it levels, the other side of the seesaw flings back up. It’s a real pitfall that businesses find themselves in.

While you’re running full-pelt to fix sales, production is on fire – burning away without anyone there to put it out.

It results in tunnel vision, and the most important thing in business is your ability to see the bigger picture.

Business coaches tend to focus on one issue at a time – typically, what’s in line with their specialty.

Our Founder and Director, Luke, has been there, “I had a mindset coach who was working on my mindset while my company was in a financial downward spiral. “A healthy mindset alone wasn’t going to save me from going bankrupt at that point. What I really needed was strategic financial advice to get me out of my crisis. “You need both and all of the time, not individually.” That’s what we mean when we talk about a holistic overview of your business: every angle, every issue covered each month. And, at Thought Pilots, in between board days, members are encouraged to communicate outside of meetings – to keep that momentum going. As for which is better? It really depends. There are great business coaches out there, just like advisory boards. The business consulting industry is rife with coaches who haven’t owned businesses before. They haven’t been where you are right now. Business advisory boards are made up of people who are currently in the trenches with you. At Thought Pilots, we make sure each board is backed by experienced Chairpersons and Business Advisory Accountants.
Not all advisory boards are made equal. Here’s what to look out for.

Advisory boards are like any other business – some are good guys, and some are cowboys. But in the advisory world, even the not-so-good guys can drive a culture of toxicity that seeps into each board.

There’s a chance you’ve attended one of these before.

❌ The board discusses ideas, but come the next meeting, there’s no returning to those ideas. You just move on.

❌ No one brings up real challenges or talks about how they’re really feeling.

❌ There are more discussions about successes than there are failures.

❌ You hear plenty of advice from business advisors and mentors, but none of them has actually been where you are or owned a business for that matter.

❌ You feel lonelier, more isolated, and often like more of an imposter than you did before you joined.

✅ Accountability. You should be held accountable for the things you say you’ll do and the changes you promise to make.

✅ Soundboard. You should have a safe space to soundboard ideas and receive feedback and encouragement.

✅ Advice. Actual real advice. You should get to hear from people who’ve actually been where you are.

✅ Learning. You should get the opportunity to learn from your peers and avoid the mistakes they’ve already made.

✅ Support. You should feel supported, celebrated, and safe to be vulnerable and real with your peers.