Do You Have a Brain Trust?

I believe that every business owner should have a brain trust – a group of people who collectively serve as mentor, teacher, coach, and counselor, for no immediate financial gain in return.

I am intentionally excluding consultants (technology, human resources, marketing) and professional advisors (attorneys, accountants, investment bankers), most of whom do what they do for immediate income. And while an advisory board may have people who are contributing to your business for no short-term gain, such as an investor or retired industry expert, that’s not a brain trust in my mind.

I define a brain trust as a group of very smart and very experienced people on whom you rely for guidance, inspiration, insight, and perspective. One of my friends, Jeff Leitner, believes that your brain trust should include the “smartest people you know.”  To that, I would add people you:

  • have noticed ask lots of questions
  • find the most intriguing
  • respect the most of everyone you have ever met
  • believe know little about business but are very successful at what they do

Who comes to mind? Perhaps a neighbor, an old boss, your kid’s teacher, a former classmate, a speaker at a recent event, or an artist from whom you just bought a painting? That’s the point.

The people you thought of are people whom you normally would not think of when it comes to getting help for your business. In fact, they very well may be people who don’t know anything about your business (or about business, in general).

Think about it.

People who are smart and experienced, yet know little about what you do, are more likely to challenge, question, and inspire you in ways that your professional advisors can’t or won’t. These people will be thought-provoking, motivational, hard on you, and yet supportive.

So who are the smartest people you know? Whom do you respect the most? Who’s the most interesting or intriguing?

Write down the names, get them together, and see what they can do for your business.


  1. Vanessa

    I like this idea! I’m going to start thinking about who my brain trust can be comprised of. Currently, Kris, Bryttannee and I have agreed to start meeting up once a month so we can catch up on our businesses and help each other out with feedback and advice.

  2. Ryan Evans

    Nice post. As entrepreneurs, our main function is to create value out of thin air. Good ideas are the fuel to create that value. When you are running your own company it easy to get a myopic view of the world. Trusted advisors are a big help in coming up with new ideas or getting some much needed perspective.

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