Why a corporate advisory board?

In an ideal world, I’d be a squillionaire who could afford to focus all of my energies on Editia, and flit between luxurious (and historic) premises in Sydney, London and New York.

I would have the means to lure the most talented minds in digital publishing to leave their existing jobs and come and work for this start-up.

But this is real life, not a fairytale, and I’m not about to approach potential investors to fund a venture that may not make a substantial profit for some time. Nor am I planning on taking on business partners with whom I’d need to share slim profits.

I’ve watched over the years as acquaintances with big business dreams like mine have approached mates with deep pockets for backing, and then struggled for years to pay any of it back. Some have given more than half their business away to silent partners, and resented the other stakeholders daily as they reaped the benefits of my friends’ creativity and drive. Then there have been those who formed partnerships with one or two others, only to squabble over everything from stationery to staffing choices, and end up bitter “divorcees”.

So how would Editia be structured? When a colleague at Management Today, Amy Birchall, filed a feature on something called corporate advisory boards recently, I consumed it eagerly (you can read it here).

It turns out it is possible to appoint a board of expert advisers without paying them expensive directors’ fees or giving them a stake in your business. The benefits for them include expanding their own business experience without risking any financial loss or legal culpability. They also gain profile in marketing material, and the satisfaction of helping nurture a start-up into a viable business.

For Editia, the benefits have been huge over the few months the board members have been on board, as it were.

I was able to approach exactly the people I would’ve hired if money had been no object. Every single one accepted my invitation once they learnt a little about the business plan. Each has offered advice and guidance generously when asked – and in many cases without needing to be asked at all.

Several have already completed paid work for Editia on top of their unpaid corporate advisory role, in each case going above and beyond what you would expect when paying a contractor.

In a recent development, I have managed to secure office space (shared with Halstead Press) in the stunning 1925 Gorman House arts precinct in Canberra’s city centre too.

So, maybe I am living a fairytale after all. One in which Twitter, Skype, the cloud and generosity of spirit allow me to work in a city removed from much of my industry, yet supported by a team of bookish gurus.

Charlotte Harper


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