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How do I launch an advisory board?

iStock/Getty Images Goal plan action written on notepad
5 tips to help you get your farm advisory board off on the right foot.

In my most recent blog post, I convinced you why an Advisory Board could help your farm. But maybe you’re wondering if it’s too “corporate” for a business your size…it might be time-consuming and cost money, and ‘we talk to people already anyway.’

My advice is customize the approach to your situation.

  • Define your goal. On what types of decisions and topics do you need input? It can cover the list of a typical oversight Board (think of your experiences on other Boards like coops, schools or non-profits), or it can be very focused on hot topics for your business right now, like succession challenges, marketing, finding value added opportunities, or managing finances through tight margins.
  • Determine what frequency and timing is useful and practical. Most start with meeting two to four times per year. Be realistic about your ability to devote time to it at specific periods of year. Consider when input is best timed to help with significant decisions like equipment trading, refinancing, or crop planning.
  • Identify what type of experience and skills you’re seeking. Are you filling specific skill gaps? Do you want someone local that can connect the dots to other resources, or do you want someone from different geography or industry to bring you entirely new ideas? What stage of career is helpful? You might assume the more experienced the better, but perhaps you need a shot of next generation perspective or a different risk tolerance to push your thinking. Some start with folks who know their business well already like their banker, accountant, or attorney. While they give you opinions already, their brainstorming together with you in the same room has a different outcome. Some ask other farmers they respect who are not competitive. I encourage you to consider people outside farming too. Your friend that runs a restaurant or a factory or a real estate business has experience managing people, financials, and stressful decisions, too.
  • Provide a summary of the goals and expectations to potential recruits. Interview them as you would any employee or advisor. Compensation is typically provided but depends on size of your farm business and time commitment. A range of $500-$2,000 per meeting is reasonable. You want the advisor to view this as a commitment just like they would any job--thus they are motivated to prepare, attend, and provide value.
  • Don’t shortcut on preparing a meaningful agenda and planning for good meeting leadership. You may be able to participate more and hear the advice if you’re not busy trying to run the agenda. Consider having a third-party facilitator or appointing a specific team member to lead the agenda.

Davon Cook is a family business consultant at K Coe Isom. Reach Davon at The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

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