The Alternative Board helps forward-thinking business owners grow their businesses, increase profitability and improve their lives by leveraging local business advisory boards, private business coaching and proprietary strategic services.
Jo Clarkson and her business partners brought The Alternative Board “TAB” to the UK in 2009 as the first phase of TAB’s global expansion. Since 2009 “TAB” has been established in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
BusinessInterviews.com: How can a business owner determine if a peer advisory board could be a resource worth tapping into?
Jo: Great question! You won’t know until you try it, which is why we encourage business owners to ‘test drive’ our boards first. Interested business owners attend 3 meetings, and then we decide together whether sharing issues and experience with other business owners works for them or not – and whether they will benefit from membership in a peer advisory board. In reality, if a business owner is open to sharing their experience and listening to other people – respecting and valuing their views – then there is good chance that TAB can really help them get to where they want to be
BusinessInterviews.com: What does a typical TAB Board Meeting involve and what kinds of benefits can attendees expect?
Jo: Each member gets their own ‘time slot’ at every meeting – how they use that is up to them. At the last board meeting I facilitated, one member wanted their fellow members to critique an important presentation they were about to give to their bank to raise a significant amount of money – they wanted to make sure they got their message and strategy absolutely right. Another was finding it hard to get his motivation back after having his leg in plaster for 6 weeks after a sporting injury and wanted other members to share how they kept themselves motivated when things were tough. One member was planning a celebration for the 25th anniversary of starting their business and wanted ideas for events and other marketing activities that would capitalise on the opportunity. Another was in the middle of a potential acquisition that could go either way and wanted to get lots of things off his chest to people who understood what he was going through. These are all typical things members bring to board meetings! As you can imagine, the benefits vary depending on the member and the topic, from objective advice about strategy and tactics, through personal advice and support when times are difficult, to creative input and blue skies thinking.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on the differences between peer advice and business coaching and the advantages of having both types of input?
Jo: Peer advice is based on real life experience – it’s more like mentoring than coaching. It’s saying – ‘this is the way it was for me, it might work like this for you’ or ‘I did this and it didn’t work – don’t make the same mistake I did’. Business Coaching is more about helping the business owner decide what’s best for them – to be clear what they’re trying to do, and where they want to get to – and then have a plan to get there. A great coach doesn’t give you the answers – they ask the right questions in the right way that help you to decide on the answers, and give you the confidence to act on them. Of course in our one-on-ones with our members at TAB, we often share our own experience as business owners – but that’s a bonus for the member rather than the purpose of the coaching session.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the importance of aligning personal and business goals onto the same path?
Jo: We compare the link between personal goals and business goals to riding a bicycle – the front wheel is your personal vision – it’s where you want to get to in life and what you want the journey to look like. The back wheel is your business and you, the business owner, are pedalling like mad to keep the bicycle moving. The front and back wheels are inextricably linked by the frame. If you aren’t clear about where you want the front wheel to point, then a lot of the effort you’re putting into pedalling is wasted – or taking you somewhere completely different than where you wanted to be. The fundamental principle we work with at TAB is that business owners have the right to expect that their business will deliver for them what they want out of life – after all isn’t that the point?
BusinessInterviews.com: What some of the biggest challenges that you see small to medium sized businesses facing at the moment?
Jo: Getting the right people in the right roles doing the right things! The economy is going well, even the banks are getting the message that they need to start supporting SMEs (sort of!), but growth brings it’s own challenges, of course, and people are the key one.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share a mistake or a problem that turned to be the foundation of a great lesson?
Jo: Mmm – I’m sure I must have lots of these! We recruited someone into our team 2 years ago who wasn’t office based – in fact they only came to the office once every couple of months, but we somehow expected them to absorb our culture, our behaviours – the way we do business – somehow through the ether, and it took us several months to realise that simply doesn’t work. Either have a great plan to integrate remote workers – and keep them aligned – or don’t have them at all. Might sound obvious, but it was a lesson well learned!
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you think that it can be useful for business owners to think beyond their own particular industry?
Jo: I think it’s critical to do that – if you stick within your industry you keep breathing the same fumes – you need to breath the fresh air outside to stimulate creativity, provide energy and keep ahead of the crowd. It’s one of the key things that TAB provides to our members – no board has competing businesses, and the more diversity of sector the better.
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