Does a startup need a board of advisers?

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Dear Norm:
My husband and I own a consulting business that we’ve run successfully for fifteen years. Now we’re planning to start a retail wine business, and we think we need a board of advisers. What do you think?
Leslie

Dear Leslie,
If you’re talking about an official group that meets regularly, I doubt you need one. A board is useful when you want to take an established business to the next level and you don’t have a management team with the experience to guide you. You might also need a board at some point to enhance your credibility with investors or important customers. For the majority of start-ups, however, a formal board of advisers just gets in the way. On the other hand, it’s always smart to get advice from experienced businesspeople. I’d talk to as many people as I could find with experience in wine retailing and similar businesses. You don’t need a board to do that.
Yours truly, Norm

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