Have you ever had one of those ‘Aha’ moments when you knew your life was about to change forever? I distinctly remember mine. It started with the first recruit to my Personal Board of Directors: my husband, the entrepreneur.
It was 1999 and I was in full panic mode. We had finally settled into our new home in the city and now, since no moss gathers on a rolling entrepreneur, we had purchased an orchard in the countryside, a good hour’s drive away. On top of that, we had decided to put our family spin cycle on ‘high’, with a wild idea to make ice cider with all of our apples. There were a few problems with this:
1. After having purchased this 430-acre property, we didn’t have a lot of money left to run the orchard or hire help.
2. We had never actually tasted or seen ice cider.
3. We had no idea how to make ice cider.
We needed to bring in some big guns to help us get to the starting line and, effectively, help give our new venture liftoff. So, like most young entrepreneurs, when confronted with an exciting new business idea, with little clear direction as to what to do, we turned to our close network of friends, family and mentors. We needed a sounding board, some serious brainstorming (i.e. not just, ‘sounds like a great idea!’), and additional rational analysis to help nudge along our thinking. Effectively, we began to recruit a cohort of volunteer start-up helpers, aka, our Personal Board of Directors (PBOD).
What is a PBOD? They are peers and influencers who have specific mentoring capabilities; a dynamic group of people with close ties to you. They are those whom you respect and consider extremely important in terms of your circle of influence – that which goes well beyond your business interests and objectives. They have a strong positive influence on your life because they know you well, understand your personal interests and most importantly, have your interests at heart.
For us, our roster included the following:
- Family members
- A few close friends
- Influential Teachers
- Financial Advisors
- Community Leaders
- Trusted current and former bosses and colleagues
The best advice I can give any budding entrepreneur is to solicit and engage your own PBOD as early on as possible. Doing so earlier in our own process would have benefited us immeasurably, but we waited until we were knee-deep in the throws of our start-up before really tapping into this type of network.
Some of the outside skills and expertise you should be actively trolling for in your PBOD include the abilities to:
- keep you on point in terms of your passion and core competencies/skills;
- challenge you to ask the right questions and help you to re-formulate your strategic thinking when required;
- push your idea championing skills, and;
- assist you with networking and offering expertise with your new ventures.
One thing that became abundantly clear as we began to more openly discuss our embryonic ice cider scheme with various PBOD members, was our lack of hard data (see my previous blog post, ‘Start-up by Concentrating Your Assets’). We didn’t have any idea how to make ice cider, nor, according to many opinions emanating from the PBOD, should we be the ones to make it. We should outsource it. This decision, in and of itself, was liberating. In reaching consensus with our PBOD, we quickly realized that external hires in areas where we lacked passion and skill was a great strategic approach and ultimately would move us forward much faster than if we tried to do everything ourselves.
Between Charlie and I, we had marketing skills in spades; but, make ice cider ourselves? Entertaining such a plan would have been pure folly and was definitely not the best use of our combined skills or resources. My knowledge of fermentation was limited to what I had learned in Biology 101 and experience with an amateur Beer Brewing competition entered into by some of my undergrad pals from university. The team had a good entry despite, as I recall, the use of a student bathtub for brewing purposes. I quickly learned from watching their efforts that the fermentation process, while relatively straight forward, requires some skill.
And so, with growing clarity of vision, and the support and wisdom of our PBOD, our next order of business was to find someone who possessed the qualifications and capabilities to ferment our mountain of apples. That fateful moment came one night when we had a call from our real estate agent. He said that, by chance, he had learned of someone experimenting with making cider from frozen apples and would we be interested in meeting him? Would we? Absolutely! We did, and that somewhat historic meeting ultimately led us to our cider maker.
This article was written by Susan Reid from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.