At the 2016 National Conference & Business Fair, I sat next to fellow WBE Jane Kennedy Greene, CEO of Kenco, at a work session. Despite never meeting in person before, I recognized her and complimented her WBENC Blog post discussing the importance of selecting and building a board of directors.
Since the session hadn’t started yet, I took the initiative to ask Jane, leader of a multi-million dollar logistics company, what she thought I could do to bring influence on my leadership as an emerging entrepreneur. As an introvert, it is sometimes difficult for me to work up the courage to ask people I don’t know for advice, yet I love the opportunity to learn. She smiled, engaged with me, and listened before responding:
“Have you thought about starting with an advisory board? But perhaps structure it to your business goals with measureable outcomes?”
We continued to discuss, and in just five minutes of her time, Jane gave me the confidence and the nudge I needed to start looking for those leaders in my life who could help me drive my success; people to turn to when I needed fresh perspective and a challenge to be better.
Although I knew about advisory boards as a concept, it always felt like it was too much work for a start-up like mine. With Jane’s advice, I started looking at the foundations I had already built, including my robust strategic plan, to seek advice one-on-one from my network, including the WBENC network. Here are some of the questions I asked myself:
- Who knows sales better than anyone else?
- Who knows partnerships better than anyone else?
- Who knows more about topics [operations, finance, creativity, leadership, etc.] better than anyone else?
- Who knows this region better than anyone else?
- Who knows this industry better than anyone else?
I ended up with almost 25 people on a list, but then I started to cull that list based on the following qualifiers:
- Who will disagree with me and give me constructive criticism?
- Who will discuss nuanced points to ensure I understand?
- Who will take the time to commit to 3-5 hours per quarter to this task?
Those qualifiers helped me see with whom I really wanted to share my strategic plan, and more importantly, who would really sit down to dinner, ask questions, and talk shop. I still have much work to do as Cogberry Creative grows, but I am farther on my path thanks to a quick moment another WBE shared with me.
Jane’s guidance is an example of the small and meaningful ways that the WBENC network improves the chances of emerging entrepreneurs like myself. As you prepare for Las Vegas in June, just remember that great advice comes in many forms and even in the smallest of moments at #WBENCconf.
About Laura Berry, Founder & CEO, Cogberry Creative, LLC
Laura Berry is Founder and CEO of Cogberry Creative, a content strategy firm specializing in building process-oriented workflows for your marketing. Her team loves assessing an organization’s market impact, building brand equity, and developing powerful messaging that will engage your target audiences.