Advisory boards: The best kept secret for higher sales

3-minute read

Setting up an advisory board leads to surprisingly large gains, including higher sales and productivity. Surprisingly, only 6% of entrepreneurs have established an advisory board for their business. That’s the conclusion of a BDC study Advisory boards: An untapped resource.

Trusted advice for your business

An advisory board is a group of trusted advisers that meets regularly to help you make better business decisions and develop a long-term vision for your business. Unlike a formal board of directors, it has no decision-making powers and carries no legal liability toward your company.

BDC asked Statistics Canada to analyze a sample of 3,902 BDC clients. It compared those with advisory boards with those that don’t have boards but are similar in terms of size, industry, age and region.

Sales and productivity gains

The study found:

  • Annual sales were 24% higher on average between 2001 and 2011 at businesses with an advisory board, compared to companies that didn’t have an advisory board but have similar characteristics.
  • Sales grew by 66.8% on average in the first three years after a company created an advisory board. This compares with 22.9% sales growth in the three years before the board was formed.
  • Productivity increased by an average of 5.9% in the first three years after a board was formed compared with 3.2% in the previous three-year period.

Few entrepreneurs use advisory boards

As part of the study, BDC also commissioned a survey of Canadian entrepreneurs to find out about their experiences with advisory boards. Here are some of the findings of the survey of more than 1,000 leaders of private companies across Canada.

  • Just 6% of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses have advisory boards.
  • Businesses that do have them tend to be older and larger—most have been in business for 11 to 20 years, with 20 or more employees.

An essential tool

Entrepreneurs who had set up an advisory boards were asked to rate the advantages from one to 10. They gave the following ratings.

  • An essential tool (8.2)
  • Like having a sounding board (8.1)
  • Allows you to develop a broader vision (8.0)
  • Improves strategic business choices (8.0)
  • Strengthens management’s convictions (8.0)
  • Broadens the universe of knowledge and skills (7.8)
  • Develops new ideas (7.8)

More likely to consider projects

Most entrepreneurs (86%) who have an advisory board said it has had “a big impact” on their company. They said they are more likely to consider growth projects or restructuring their operations.

Eight out of 10 business owners also said they would not hesitate to repeat the experience of setting up and running an advisory board.

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