Written By: Adam Levinter, Founder, ScriberBase Inc.

Now that I’ve started into a second business venture as an entrepreneur, I’m asking myself if my role as the sole owner is best for the business.  As a founder and President, I carry all leadership responsibility. I don’t have any business partners or outside investors, so in the meantime, I’ve decided to assemble a pseudo board to help map out a market penetration strategy. Who’s on my board? If I look through my contact list, I can safely assume that over 50 individuals are playing the role. Sound crazy? This is what I call the power of peer-to-peer mentoring and advisory.

As an entrepreneur, I regularly seek business mentoring, coaching and objective guidance. Yet, I’ve never felt like I’ve had to assemble a board to accomplish that objective. Instead, I’ve found a number of entrepreneurial organizations (and similar peer groups) in Toronto focused on assembling like-minded founders looking to learn from each other. Futurpreneur, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and its Accelerator program (EO/EOA), TiE, and Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) are just a select few that come to mind. Each organization prides itself on a different vision and set of core values, but the one constant is the intense reliance on peer-to-peer learning.

My personal experience as a member of EO Toronto has been rewarding. I’ve received mentorship, guidance, and coaching through a combination of the EO model and its network. As an example, I meet monthly with my EO forum group consisting of seven other individuals who all own a business. We discuss wins, challenges, and experiences in order to learn from one another. I consider my forum part of my pseudo board of advisors. The important point is not selling what EO is offering; it’s about understanding the framework and the power of surrounding oneself with like-minded entrepreneurs.

Here are my five tips to help you also build a valuable peer-to-peer network for your business:

1) Research organizations in your community, and understand their core values.
2) Get involved with organizations and meet-up groups that fit your objective(s).
3) Avoid individuals who have monetary motives attached to their time.
4) Give back (don’t make peer relationships one-sided). Be prepared to share openly.
5) Nurture the relationships that you value. Stay in touch.

To be transparent, I’ve never had a board, nor been interested in assembling one. Perhaps it’s because there’s often a fundamental conflict of interest when it comes to the motivation of a prospective board member. In my experience, board prospects come with consulting fees, equity, or some other form of monetary incentive. For me, this made it difficult to assume that:

A) Our interests were aligned, and
B) That I’d be getting sound, authentic, and un-filtered advice.

Recently, I had a phone conversation with an investment banker friend of mine. He said that I should really consider establishing a real board; a list of say 3-5 individuals I could list on my website to make us look more credible. I guess I’ll consider his advice at some point down the road, but currently, I’m getting some amazing guidance from peers. Hearing their experiences as they grow their business is unbelievable valuable. And the best part is, they don’t come with a price tag.

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