The brief excerpt below is from the book; 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs Thriving in Uncertain Times. The award winning 300 page book includes exclusive interviews with over 50 successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.
Allen Fishman – Creator of The Alternative Board
Allen Fishman established The Alternative Board (TAB) in 1990. TAB provides peer board and coaching services for business owners and CEOs in over 400 cities around the world. Today TAB has over 150 franchisees and 35 full-time employees. Allen’s first company, Infinite Horizons Training Systems, is a business education system. His second venture; Sun Development Company built, and currently manages, shopping centers and office buildings. He still holds controlling interest in these companies. In 1980, Allen became a part owner, President & COO in Tipton Centers Inc.
(TCI), a consumer electronics retailer, which Allen took public in 1986 before it was acquired by Dixon in 1987. Following the sale of TCI, at the age of 45, Fishman retired to Aspen, Colorado area where he wrote the nationally syndicated advice column, Business Insights. While doing interviews for the column, he identified the key factors common to those entrepreneurs who had achieved success that led him to author two books: 7 Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters: The GEM Power Formula for Lifelong Success and 9 Elements of Family Business Success. In addition to being featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fortune Small Business, Business Week, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune, Allen hosted the radio show Formula for Success on a CBS, and is a frequent
guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, and CNNfn.
Q: The genesis of the idea for TAB?
A: It took place at a party. A few business owners were talking about the fact that they had needs that they could not discuss with employees or family members. They had no place to get real advice, no support group. That night it hit me that they had been quite comfortable talking about this situation among themselves. The next day we skied together and I asked them, “What if I could provide you with a professional who would facilitate a group meeting once a month and coach you during the month?” They liked the idea and the company was launched.
Q: What were your biggest challenges? Looking back now, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
A: When I formed The Alternative Board I required little structure from the people who are facilitating and coaching. After a period of time I realized that that wasn’t good enough and we needed a uniform offering providing the same value to all members wherever they are located. For example, it is very important that somebody coaching in Oakland, California coaches with the same materials, the same SBL process and the same soft skills as somebody
coaching in London. It took awhile to correct that mistake. That’s the competitive edge of our TAB facilitator coaches.
Q: Do you recommend an MBA for an entrepreneur?
A: No. At the same time I will tell you that one of my members on the founder’s board just got his MBA and feels that getting an MBA has been very good for him. He is a second generation in the business, and for a lot of reasons he felt he had not been exposed to things outside his business and the MBA rounded off his knowledge base. But generally speaking I’d say no because most MBA’s are geared to teaching how to work for someone else. I talked to one TAB board member with an MBA program who told me he felt that his MBA had been a waste because the people teaching him were not entrepreneurs. They taught nuts and bolts, but they didn’t really understand the entrepreneurial mindset. That’s one of the keys to success as an entrepreneur. It’s also one of the reasons why many businesses that are successful while they are being driven by an entrepreneur, but fail when they are acquired by a big company and run by professional managers. It’s a different mindset.