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The most successful entrepreneurs rely on their advisory boards to help spot new opportunities and potential pitfalls.

Now you can have your own advisory board: a shadow board of directors.

A shadow board of directors is a low-tech technique for accessing the expertise of others and increasing your confidence and options. A shadow board can help you get a variety of perspectives and access to information just like a regular board. Shadow boards of directors can push you out of your rut and help you find alternative solutions and expert advice. The only difference between a regular board and a shadow board is that shadow boards exist only in your own imagination.

Because your shadow board is portable, light and easy to carry, its always available. It will challenge you to sharpen your thinking skills and expand your perspective. Your shadow board of directors teaches you to consider the views of others whether you agree with them or not. It also makes available experts who are living or dead, known to you or strangers; talent you could never buy.

To build your shadow board of directors, choose a variety of people for their strengths and skills. Choose them for their specific skills and talents, knowledge and gifts, no matter what their limitations might be. Youll be tapping their strengths, not their limitations.

Make sure you have the people you need or could profit from, no matter how outrageous anyone else might find them.

Use your shadow board of directors to help you think through and make tough decisions. Youll use them for input and advice.Some of the members will change depending on the topics or the questions, others will be your old standbys.

My standard members include Einstein, just because he was so smart. I can only hope to emulate his thinking process. Liz Taylor is on my list because she is gorgeous no matter what her size, very loyal to her friends, not afraid to speak out on difficult or unpopular issues, and is one classy lady. I just wish I had her violet eyes.

Marti Burns is a composite character, a combination of two cognitive therapists: David Burns, who wrote Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, the best book on combating depression I have read and recommended, and Martin Seligman, a psychologist whose pioneering work includes Learned Optimism and What You Can Change… and What You Cant. Together these two men, in my embodiment of Marti Burns, help me deal with my bouts of feeling bad and help me confront myself when I get into irrational thinking. I also check in with them when Im faced with clients who present difficult interpersonal issues.

Jane Johnson is another composite member, taken from two friends and colleagues who are the best technical manager and human resources manager Ive been privileged to work with. Their high ethical and moral stance, willingness to do the hard work, and clarity in thought and action challenge me to meet their level of expertise. I ask them how they would handle the hard situations I face in corporate consulting challenges. Then I listen.

For family issues, I look to Fitzhugh Gottman, another composite character. He is a combination of Fitzhugh Dodson, my favorite child rearing expert and John Gottman, known for his solid, experience based work with couples and relationships. No sound bites or stereotypes for these two. They know what works for kids and couples.

The list could go on, but you get the picture. These are people I have known personally, or through their work, or in my image of them. I match their expertise to the challenges I face.

If my question involves critical thinking and creativity, Einstein is always the chairman of the board. But I dont even think to include him for grooming or social questions. Liz gets the honors here. A quick conversation in my head with her, and I know how to solve the problem with dispatch, class, and grace. I wouldnt use her as my marriage consultant, though. Wedding consultant, yes; marriage consultant, never.

A shadow board of directors complements the real experts you know and rely on. They can get you started with your own research, in your local library, browsing bookstores, and searching the Internet. By going step by step, asking good questions, and thinking through the answers, youll get closer to the information you need to help you face your challenges.

Start building your own Shadow Board today.

(c) 2004, Pat Wiklund. All rights in all media reserved. This article may be reprinted so long as it is kept intact with the copyright and by-line.

About The Author

Business coach Pat Wiklund works with entrepreneurs who want to make and keep more money from their businesses. Assess your one-person business with her free business tune up ecourse: Contact Pat at

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This Entrepreneurship article was written by Pat Wiklund on 8/19/2005

The most successful entrepreneurs rely on their advisory boards to help spot new opportunities and potential pitfalls.Now you can have your own advisory board: a shadow board of directors.A shadow boa