The Power Of An Advisory Board

Back during early 1996 I had a meeting with our state Department of Labor Commissioner here in New Jersey. The purpose was to discuss why unemployment applicants here in New Jersey had to undergo two separate registration processes: One for obtaining Unemployment Insurance, and a second registration for obtaining job related Employment Services. Often there was a gap of weeks in between these two registrations being wasted, that otherwise could have been used for immediate job seeking.

To make a long story short the commissioner liked my idea of a simple registration process, which eventually became implemented on a state-wide basis, and went on to receiving federal department of labor accolades and was used as a model in other states.

During this process he asked me as if by after thought “…Might you be able to come down to Trenton just a few times a year to help provide input in a more ongoing basis …”

While I found myself somewhat flattered, I was apprehensive at the same time since I know volunteering for anything often becomes a situation difficult to remove one’s self from later due to the scarcity of other volunteers.

Nevertheless, when I heard it was for only four meetings a year, and could be a powerful forum to meet other industry leaders and included free breakfast and lunch (always talk to the stomach) I accepted.

Next thing I knew was that I was a founding member of this advisory board. My responsibility was to help double, triple, and grow the membership attendance. A daunting task considering who our target audience was: Leaders and key management of New Jersey corporations both large and small. But we did it.

This article is the first of its kind where I have ever discussed in any detail my activities and experiences with what soon became known as the New Jersey State Employer Advisory Council. An advisory council which, over the next few years, became represented by New Jersey’s powerhouse companies ranging from Insurance, to “Big Pharma”, Big 4 (then six) CPA firms, Federal Express, Continental Airlines, UPS, Summit Bank (now Bank of America) and the list goes on and on. These companies sent district, branch, corporate, and regional managers from across various corporate functions ranging from Operations, IT, Recruiting, and the Executive Suite.

I had no idea that around 1997 and for many years to come, my involvement with this board would virtually eliminate nearly all need for cold client marketing calls. Yet, that became the result. The forum also provided very valuable suggestions to state officials … a number of which got promotions from using the group’s ideas (some which were my very own thank you very much!)

We had so many calls for business coming in for so many functions and disciplines for several years straight that I was frequently overloaded, having to hand job orders out to competing search firms. The reason was simple: I represented the only Executive Search Firm from many hundreds of members in our group.

Moving forward in my short story: When I spoke at our local New Jersey State Staffing Association the year before last, I shared some techniques that can be utilized to stir up activity without cold calling similar to my advisory group participation. But what I share with you here is fresh insight never before discussed with any group. This article reveals just HOW POWERFUL advisory group participation can be … especially if you are lucky enough to land in the middle of the right one.

Each meeting of the EAC was like Christmas-time for my company, IRES, Inc. (www.iresinc.com). Oddly enough, I was often inviting fellow recruiting firm owners to pass the torch to years later … but no one seemed interested. Instead they attended local and regional staffing association meetings. While any-trade related association is worthy of participation … nothing beats joining a group that consists primarily of your potential clientele as opposed to your peers!

Extracting the power and leverage an advisory board provides does not require you go running to your local state, or county chamber of commerce to volunteer, however.

Not too long ago I was invited to a “Fee based” “Alternative Board” session locally in our county. The purpose of this organization was to emulate the success I described in my other group … yet charge a fee and run “for profit”.

While I was intrigued with the power and concept of Advisory Boards, I felt I did not have to pay hundreds of dollars per month for participating in an “artificially created” board.

So about a year or so ago, I created our own IRES, Inc. Advisory Board. I decided that we, as recruiters, already have a database of contacts in our possession. In fact, chances are anything we’d need, from real estate investing advice, to estate planning, tax planning, web design is probably contained in the mind of an individual already in our “system,” but we’re not in the habit of tapping our wealth of candidate or client talent in such non-conventional ways, are we?

Here’s how I created the IRES ADVISORY BOARD two years ago which has now become almost as successful as joining other groups in years gone by. While this model does not expose the participant to new representatives of companies such as my first example, it does offer similar methods of remaining in communication with key clientele, exchanging information, and “elevating” rapport by ratcheting up the relationship.

Armed with this new twist of tapping the talent pool already in your possession … you too can easily design your own small company Advisory Board that can be as effective as any corporate or educational board in which I’ve participated … while offering benefits to both participants as well as your recruiting staffing firm representatives, owners or managers. If you think you have a really good group in the making … you may even invite me!

CREATING YOUR ADVISORY BOARD!

STEP ONE:

Go through your database and find those clients whom have a warm relationship with.

These may include those whom go beyond recruiting and frequently ask about your wife, kids, spouse, sports etc. These are what I call “VGC’s” (Very Good Clients). We earmark them in our tracking system as VGC due to (a) multiple hires generated each year and (b) the very warm relationship which is either formally or informally exclusive.

STEP TWO:

Now search your “Placed Candidates.”

Hopefully your system is well-organized enough to make this process require no more than a few minutes of searching. In our database, these individuals (you may have guessed already) are identified with the key term “Placed Candidate.” There are dozens I can choose from just from this year alone and it builds up quickly if I add in the last two, three or four years (the further back I go the more likely they have progressed to managerial roles). Now select those placed candidates that match the “above average” warm relationship you were seeking in step one.

STEP THREE:

The final touches.

Now consider including Business Friends, Networking Contacts, Vendors, political group members, Homeowners associations, etc. Keep the underlying common denominator in mind: Regardless of the individual … they should be interested in participating, exploring, analyzing and dissecting small business challenges you will occasionally run by them. My group includes some:

a) Homeowners Association members from when I served as a director
b) Political and Charitable Group members (only key members)
c) Vendors, CPA’s, Financial Advisor, trusted local ¹Realtors, etc.

STEP FOUR

Prepare your invitation approach.

Your actual invite can be as simple as a few paragraphs on your own letterhead/stationary. You can also use an HTML graphic email template like I do. In my case I use the “Thank You” template that comes installed with our email application. This has a blue border with the words “Thank You” on the side and top. I like it because it presupposes acceptance (the presumptive close) and thanks the individual in advance. The wording also follows the presumptive acceptance perspective which is covered next.

STEP FIVE

Your Content.

Here’s the wording I often use … sometimes I may vary or modify this wording slightly to fit a particular purpose:

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Hello Douglas,

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback to our last inquiry.
There are times where unique approaches and creative advice from industry outsiders can be invaluable.

Being as the feedback received from trusted business partners often prove to be highly constructive … I decided to invite you to our formal IRES “Board of Advisors”.

You need not do anything to accept this invitation unless you choose to not participate. You have been selected due to your opinions, feedback and informal commentary you have contributed in the past.

I look forward to working with you to develop solutions.

By membership into our advisory group you will receive opportunities for providing input confidentially and in a personalized manner.

Our discussions will be conducted via email except for those times where telephone may be more suitable. In either case, we would be respectful of your time and anticipate no more than a few minutes on a semi-annual basis would be required of you.

If you wish, you have our permission to now include “Advisory Board member to www.iresinc.com an executive search, governance and organizational consulting firm” on your resume.

Regards,
Frank G. Risalvato
Frank Risalvato
CEO
IRES, Inc.
E-mail: fris@iresinc.com
Phone: [1] 973-300-1010
Mobile: [1] 862-684-7535
Fax: [1] 973-300-3282

CLOSING:

I’m not sure if you’re catching some of the cleverness spun into my invite … but I can tell you a number of individuals have placed the IRES advisory board notation on their resume! Especially, younger folks, eager to insert anything that looks good on what would otherwise be a sparse resume.

Each time those candidates interview, the IRES, Inc. annotation circulates like George Washington on the dollar bill. But I digress as this is only a by-product benefit of what we’re doing here.

The real goal is to have a reason to communicate more regularly with those whom we might otherwise contact only infrequently for placement or recruiting purposes alone. And when you ask someone for advice you generally receive it.

Warning: Be careful who/what you ask! You must exercise good planning as to when/where/why/how you approach your advisory board.
A recent invitation for advice/referrals for a web designer led to a 50% immediate response by my advisory board members within 24 hours!!

That’s the kind of powerful feedback this mechanism can deliver rapidly. And it keeps the “IRES” name in front of key people on my Radar Screen.

Another Example: Two weeks ago I needed advice as to whether I should or shouldn’t send out a certain letter to clients explaining some restructuring we were considering in terms of switching home/satellite offices around. My advisory board convinced me to say nothing until the plans to move were implemented as it otherwise might alarm some unnecessarily.

That type of expert advice is very helpful. And it keeps the IRES name in front of the key individuals whose opinions I respect.

Think about it: Would you be more likely to call me back if I was asking you for (a) an operational challenge where your expertise is sought … or (b) if I called all the time for plain old “recruiting”? The former gives you an “insight glimpse” as to other aspects of Recruiting your clients may not have been aware of.

So if you have been in business for any number of years, you too may want to consider ratcheting up your warmer relationships a few notches by creating a simple “Advisory Board” and invite those members more formally.

While not everyone can be invited or are comfortable with the time constraints of joining a quasi-governmental group such as the one I mentioned … nearly everyone can leverage your own contacts and create your own “small board of advisors” that can produce equally similar win-win situations for unique challenges while keeping your name under the nose of key contacts.

¹ Realtors can be excellent sources of leads and referrals as described in my upcoming book “The Kentucky Fried Secrets to Recruiting Millions ©”

Frank G. Risalvato, CPC has appeared on radio and TV business segments and has contributed articles and innovative methodologies to the recruiting profession since 1987.
• Call 973-300-1010 for more information and be the first to read his soon-to-be-released book “The Kentucky Fried Secret Recipe to Recruiting Millions®”
• www.iresinc.com • Email: fris@iresinc.com

Frank Risalvato made the plunge into the search industry in 1987. Within two years he was earning fees on a monthly basis that were comparable to his entire previous annual salary. Today he specializes in the low to mid-six figure hires and manages multiple openings each month. Although he didn't invent recruiter training, he views himself as someone that improves, perfects, and enhances pre-existing techniques. His new book is "A Manager's Guide To Maximizing Search Firm Success."

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