July 31, 2019

What is Advisory Work? Say Hello to the Longest Job You'll Ever Have

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Chris Beaver

Chris Beaver
Founder & CMO/AdvisoryCloud

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The modern workforce is dynamic and flexible, and professionals today have more career options and opportunities than ever before. Advisory work is the one job that can sustain a person’s professional and personal lifestyle throughout their career. It can be a steady stream of work that can be scaled back or turned up as your schedule allows for it. Advisory work typically starts when you are in full stride with your career, once you have the experience and expertise to advise others, and tends to continue well into retirement – making it the longest job you will ever have.

So, what is advisory work? 

Advisors proactively identify the company’s opportunities or problems before they occur, and then strategize with the CEO and other C-suite executives to develop the right roadmaps for achieving success. Rather than performing individual tasks, they provide information and resources that help leadership teams make smart decisions and encourage them to think critically about the issues at hand.

The truth is that even the most experienced CEOs don’t have all the answers. There are challenges or areas of business that they have never managed before (for instance, a CEO going through an IPO for the first time) and could use sound advice from an expert who’s been there done that.

An advisor’s role is to be a mentor for a company’s leadership team, coaching them through important decisions. They use their past experiences and knowledge as a high-level executive to offer strategic guidance. Advisors aren’t hired as internal employees, which allows them to hold an advisory position without getting in the way of their current job, and instead they collaborate directly with the CEO and leadership team.

And because no two businesses are the same, advisory work can come in many different forms, each one designed to help companies in the way they need it most.

On-demand advisors (also known as “one-on-one advisory work”)

An on-demand advisor is just what it sounds like – a qualified advisor who can be hired at the request of a company seeking strategic guidance. In today’s modern gig economy, high level executives and deep industry experts are now available to be contracted for short-term engagements. This is a particularly valuable concept at the executive level, where on-demand advisory work allows companies to connect with independent subject-matter experts on an as-needed basis.

These advisors are most often hired at an hourly rate and can be retained for any agreed upon length, whether it’s for an hour brainstorming session, extended project, or somewhere in between. Individual advisors can provide insight for executives when unforeseen business challenges arise, or an exceptional business opportunity needs to be accessed. Hiring by the hour is the ideal choice for companies that need answers to time-sensitive questions or want a quick and easy brainstorming session with someone who has relevant experience.

Traditional advisory board

Instead of hiring on-demand advisors on a case-by-case basis, some CEOs prefer to take a more structured approach and establish a board of advisors. In these situations, advisory boards typically consist of 4-6 members who meet quarterly (or more frequently if needed by the CEO). Although it can be structured similar to a board of directors, advisory boards are much more informal than directors and aren’t bound to the company by any fiduciary responsibilities. 

CEOs often go the route of an advisory board if they are looking to build a specialty board. For instance, if a company is aiming to be acquired they would build a board with specialists who can council them through the process. Just like on-demand advisors, board members are brought on to fill specific knowledge gaps within an organization, use their experience to support individual projects or initiatives, and help the CEO become a more effective leader. CEOs also use this group dynamic as a sounding board when they need to brainstorm ideas and solve complex challenges. 

Advisory work has become increasingly popular within the corporate world because the relationship between a CEO and advisor is symbiotic. The CEO in this situation is receiving the advantage of credible business guidance, and the advisor gets to pocket a number of enticing benefits, including: 

  • Personal fulfillment

It can be extremely rewarding for executives to use their knowledge and guidance to help others find success. In fact, 58% of executives in North America said their main motivation for becoming an advisor is to share their experience with companies who need help building or sustaining a successful business. Often times, advisors will choose companies that have a mission statement or product that they are passionate about.

  • Career development

Many times, executives serve as advisors outside their industry to broaden their understanding of different fields and markets. Advisory work is a great way for executives to build additional leadership experience and view corporate issues from a new perspective, which can help improve their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Not to mention, “Advisor” is a noticeable title on any executive’s resume.

  • Monetary rewards

Advisory work gives professionals an additional opportunity to get paid for their time and energy. Whether they’re looking for extra income each year or equity in a startup, companies offer compensated advisory roles, providing a nice bonus to someone’s regular salary. (If they are retired, this is a great way to put a little extra cash in their pocket.) 

The fluidity of advisory work allows you to work with as many (or as few) companies as you want, either simultaneously or one right after the other. Regardless of your current job, advisory work is something that can go on in the background, giving it the potential to be the longest job you’ll ever hold in your career.

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