Enactus UK would like to introduce Aimee Clark from the alumni, to help you make the most of your business advisory board in the run up to national competition. Enjoy.
Hello Enactus students,
As an Enactus alumni and the leader of the Centrica Business Advisor programme, I thought I would say a few words about how to engage your Business Advisors. I have the pleasure of catching up with our Business Advisors each month, who support different UK Enactus teams, and their experiences range greatly. Over that time I’ve noticed some key factors that lead to a successful Enactus Business Advisor relationship, which are listed in some detail below (sorry I lied about the “few words”). However, the main factor for success is, in my opinion, a genuine recognition of the value that Business Advisors can add to the team. The best teams will see a BAB (Business Advisory Board) meeting not just as an obligation but an opportunity to critically evaluate their projects, to provide a fresh & objective perspective, to help tackle the most difficult problems, to generate innovative ideas and to ensure long term stability in the team.
One of the areas in which the Business Advisors can add most value to your team is in preparation for competition. Why? Because they are exactly the same kind of people that will be judging you at the competition! They may have very little Enactus experience, prior to seeing your presentation, which is ideal as they’ll be able to give you objective feedback and focus solely on the Enactus criterion. They are likely to give their own, see and challenge other people’s presentations every day in their professional career and from experience can provide a lot of constructive critique. If they work internationally, they will also understand how your presentation translates to an international audience, which is really important if you are aspiring to go to the World Cup!
So please use your Business Advisor as much as possible in preparation for the Competition to; help you select which projects to present, critically evaluate them against the Enactus criterion, give you feedback on your presentation/ annual report/ script, and practise Q and A.
In return the best teams will take the time to ask two key questions:
- “Why is this person offering to support us?”
- “Are they being fulfilled by this relationship?”
In answer to the first question, there are 3 main reasons Business Advisors typically get involved with Enactus: to give back to the community, to develop themselves/ Enactus students, and to recruit top calibre students into their companies. Once you know what their personal motivations are, the challenge is then to make sure they are fulfilled in their Business Advisory experience. So if they want to give back, they will be looking for direct project exposure and will want to see the personal impact they are having. If you can harness this skill, you will be not only a fantastic Enactus student/ Team Leader/ CRE, but you will be more successful in your life and future career (I promise!)
Anyway, enough of the life philosophies, here are my ten top tips for engaging Business Advisors:
1. Make sure you have a getting to know you/ expectations setting session with each Business Advisor to establish:
What your strengths and weaknesses as a team;
What their background is;
How they would like to support you; and
What are the “ground rules” i.e. How often do you expect to speak to each other? How do you like to be treated? Make sure anything discussed is documented and you are constantly aware of it, so you don’t keep asking, ”So what is it you do again?”
2. Be specific about how they can support you e.g. Selecting/de-selecting projects, National Competition preparation, interviewing your management team, running skills sessions etc. Also make sure you are both fully aware of the commitment from both sides to make this happen.
3. Remember they are business people! So they expect a certain standard of professional conduct i.e:
Meetings should be organised at least 3 weeks in advance, for after office hours, taking into account travel times.
Ideally you should get these all in the diary at the start of the year;
Agendas should be sent out in advance, highlighting the specific areas you will be talking about. Don’t just use a generic template but continually adapt it to focus on your key challenges/opportunities each time; and
Minutes should be sent out after each meeting, with an action plan detailing who is responsible and what is the deadline for each action. And remember to follow up on previous action points, or there is no point in raising them
4. Keep in mind that Business Advisors are there to help and use the time with them to get constructive advice on any key problems or decisions. It shouldn’t just be a showcase of what you have done well!
5. Ensure progress from one meeting to the next. It’s really frustrating for Business Advisors when they feel they have given some good advice, which hasn’t been followed up on, or even worse, hasn’t been communicated back to them. You can do this informally with a quick email/phone call or more formally by creating a structured way to track the progress.
6. Ask for regular feedback on how they are feeling, if they have any suggestions for improvement in the structure, communication strategy etc. And again if you get any advice from them, make sure you follow it up!
7. Make sure you have consistent communication with them over the summer and handover period. Part of your duty as a Team Leader/ CRE/Enactus team member is to lay the foundations for a successful relationship in future years – the last thing you want to do is damage it.
8. Make sure your CRE is connected with the rest of the team and can recognise where a Business Advisor’s support would be beneficial for a particular project. The team should view a CRE as a “go to” person when they need support, and not just someone to update for BAB meetings.
9. Use your Business Advisor network to its full advantage. Many of the Business Advisors will be there to recruit students, so don’t be afraid to ask about employment opportunities at their company.
10. Strive to be a good representative of yourself, your team and Enactus UK. Remember that you are the face of Enactus UK and will leave a lasting impression with your Business Advisors and the sponsor companies, so make sure it is a good one.