Startup Advisors - When, Who and How

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In this article, we will explore 1) startup advisors, 2) when you need a startup advisor, 3) whom you should choose as a startup advisor, 4) how to choose the right startup advisor, and 5) how you can get most from your advisors.

STARTUP ADVISORS

A startup advisor is an individual or a group of individuals who assist you to run your business successfully. The right advisors can materially improve the way your company operates. In fact, by bringing in the right startup advisors, you get to achieve a lot of your goals quicker than you had planned off (mostly because you get to leverage the experience of other efficient and experienced professionals). These advisors render proper advice, useful introductions, investment plans and social proofs. They live up to the expectations of your business and go that extra mile to offer you unconventional yet extremely effective business insights. Their experience counts, and it helps you to run your business better.

Acquiring the right advisors and forming a proper advisory board is an ongoing effort. You need to use your networking skills while hiring these experts. In case you’re planning to choose a prospective advisor, make sure to get his testimonials from his other advisees. While communicating with his ex-clients you will get to understand his credibility and efficiency as an advisor. Also, while recruiting a team or an individual, it is always better to get the introductions first. Once the introductions or initial advice works out for your business, you can hire them immediately. Almost all worthwhile advisors would agree to this test.

WHEN DO YOU NEED A STARTUP ADVISOR?

Before choosing a startup advisor, you need to know when and why you should ‘actually’ hire these professionals. Here are few guidelines that’ll help you make the best pick.

Successfully launch your startup calls. A couple of good and experienced startup advisors can come extremely handy in helping you to launch your startup calls successfully. Whether it is targeted introduction or some real sound advice regarding your company; these experts are always ready to assist you.

Solve industry-specific problems. Startups usually look out for advisors who are popular or successful in a specific niche of business. This indicates that these professionals can easily solve industry-specific problems. Their experience helps them to handle the problems smoothly and come up with the most viable and effective solutions. A good startup advisor will understand your business, its landscape and also the numerous challenges associated with it. Therefore, if you’re looking for a professional who is experienced in your specific industry and has also handled industry-specific problems; a good startup advisor can be the perfect option.

Think about all aspects of your business. A startup advisor is extremely essential if you’re looking for someone who thinks through all the aspects of your business. A good and efficient professional will analyze your business proceedings and will also ask you questions regarding the kind of service you offer. They will be ethical about accepting the equities and help you to run your business smoothly, in every possible way.

Genuinely gain from your business and expand it. Running a business can be a tough call, especially if you are getting started for the first time. However, when you have a good startup advisor by your side, your business prospects will soon buck up. An efficient startup advisory team will help you to gain genuinely from your business and expand it.

Monitor your decision-making process. Making the right decisions is absolutely necessary to run your business smoothly, and a startup advisory team can exactly help you in this regard. A team of advisors comprising of specialists, critical thinking experts, and generalists from different backgrounds will easily reveal the positive and negative aspect of all the important decisions you take. This will turn out to be a competitive advantage of your company and will also buck up its visibility, authenticity, and profits.

Sets your business on the right course. Experience is one of the most important aspects of a business. So, with a team of experienced business advisors, your chances of being successful will drastically improve. No single individual can have complete insight into all aspects of a business. Due to this reason it is good to go for a team of advisors. A proper advisory board that meets and discusses from time to time will help you to avoid big mistakes and will also set your business on the right course. They will effectively buck up the startup side of your business and also improve the clarity of your entrepreneurial operations.

Marketing and sales. No business can thrive without proper marketing. Due to this reason, choosing the right startup advisors is absolutely important. These professionals will monitor your market and sales and also improve the credibility of your business. Their wise and sound advice will surely pave the way for your success.

Overall support. A good startup advisor will analyze market conditions, forecast trends and will also recommend technological innovations (if needed). They will also suggest changes in your products services and provide a set of ‘fresh’ for your business. Not only will they provide you good ideas, but will also assist you with proper business advice. So if you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative to the conventional board of directors’ team, a team of startup advisors can be a great option. These professionals will help, assist and provide holistic support to you.

WHO SHOULD YOU CHOOSE AS A STARTUP ADVISOR?

With numerous talented professionals around, choosing the rights startup advisor can indeed be a tricky job. So, in case you’re baffled while choosing these experts, here are a few guidelines that can help.

People with excellent coaching abilities. The best startup advisors come with excellent coaching abilities. Instead of solving your problems and simply answering your queries, they counter-question you with powerful queries that make you think out-of-the-box. They help you to solve your own issues and handle your own assumptions with the right guidance.

People with deep passion for your business. More profits and higher revenues are merely the byproducts of hard work and immense passion for business. So find someone who’s not solely driven by the ‘money making’ motive. A good startup advisor is not only honest, but also competent in leadership abilities and driven by a great passion for your business.

People with profound industry knowledge. While looking out for the right startup advisors, you need to choose someone who comes with a strong industry expertise. Profound industry specific knowledge will not only buck up strategic planning but will also help you to take the right decisions. On top of that, their involvement in your business will help you to utilize your professional network effectively and avoid all big mistakes.

Professionals who are perfectly aligned with team members. One of the best ways to choose and to add more advisors to your business is by opting for experts who are perfectly aligned with your core team members. This will not only make the business proceedings smoother, but it’ll also buck up your business strategies and decision-making process.

Ones who have great communication skills. Having a knowledgeable startup advisor on board can be a great thing. However, with knowledge, you have to ensure that the professional also has ample communication skills to communicate that knowledge. If he cannot communicate proper advice or communicates badly; it’ll affect the success of your business. In that case, no matter how knowledgeable he is; all of it is wasted.

Professionals who have the right culture fit. You chosen startup advisor or team of advisors need to have the right culture fit as well. If they do not understand the personality, passion, and the purpose of the startup they are assisting; their advice won’t be up to the mark. Therefore, it is particularly necessary to choose experts who already come with an experience of working in the same office culture. They should have a background that not only fits with your board, but also adds diversity to it.

People who are excited about incorporating your ideas. What’s better than having a group of advisors who are ‘actually’ excited about incorporating your ideas? The right kind of advisors, not only follow what they have to do, but, they also go an extra mile to be more passionate about the work. Apart from providing sound advice, they should also motivate and inspire you holistically.

Ones who come with great networking skills. Having good networking skills is crucial. A good strategic advisor helps you stay connected with the right people and resources thereby helping your company to expand faster.

Intelligent individuals. Your chosen advisor should be incredibly intelligent while formulating new and innovative business strategies. His intelligence will also come handy while providing you sound advice as and when it is necessary.

Experience counts. When it comes to choosing the right advisors for your business, experience really counts. An experienced professional helps you to run your business well and avoid all major and minor pitfalls. They also guide you while making important decisions and coming up with relevant business strategies.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT STARTUP ADVISOR?

Now that you know about the qualities to look out for in an ideal startup advisor; here’s a complete scoop on the entire process of hiring the right advisors.

  • Select professionals on the basis of their expertise – Every startup business requires a ‘dream team’. But then, as a startup you can’t end up hiring an advisor for every single expertise you need. Therefore, choose your most important areas of expertise and recruit professionals only for those skills.
  • State your expectations right from the beginning – While choosing advisors, it is always better to sign a contractual agreement that covers all the details regarding equity grant or expense reimbursement. You can also explicitly state the frequency of board meetings, official calls and the number of hours expected from a committed professional. Keep it short, simple and clear from the very beginning. This can easily avoid many unnecessary hassles in the long run.
  • Keep the exchange candid – You should constantly optimize the relationship with your startup advisors through some candid exchange of feedbacks. While advisors should be questioning about how they can be more helpful, entrepreneurs can counter question about how the professionals can be utilized better for assisting in the business.
  • Have a backup plan – Most entrepreneurs have remarked that their advisors have had a success rate of less than 50%. Due to this reason, it is quite natural when you find a couple of advisors flaking out, changing industries, retiring, or turning out to be too busy for help. In such cases, it is always better to have an exit strategy that’ll come to work when either of the parties feels that the collaboration is not working out.

3 ways to find the right team of startup advisors

You can reach out and create your advisory board, in the following three ways.

  1. Hire peers – The simplest and the most economical strategy for creating a board of advisors, is to look simply within your business groups and look out for the business owners who are trustworthy and respectable. Encourage them to participate in your monthly/quarterly board meetings, and in exchange, you can offer to sit on their board. In this way not only do you get the advantage of a credible outsider’s perspective but will also help you to build familiarity with your business.
  2. Join a program of the advisory board – In case, you cannot find any individual with whom you can swap board seats, try opting for an advisory board program. Once you join this program, you will soon be assigned to a board that is pre-staffed. Here, most of the advisors will be the owners of other startup businesses who are willing to seek and offer advice to others.
  3. Hire professionals whom you trust – You can also follow another alternative approach where you can find a set of advisors whom you respect and trust. They might be from varied professions, and you can try them for at least one-two year terms. Although this approach is slightly extravagant than the others, here, you can customize and ‘actually’ choose your core team of experts.

HOW CAN YOU GET THE MOST FROM YOUR ADVISORS?

Every business owner wishes to get the most out of their business. In this regard, they also expect their advisors to give their best shot and help them in all situations. Following are a couple of strategies that’ll help you to get the most out of these professionals.

  • Ask – Yes. You have to ask your chosen advisors regarding their strategies, ideas, and advice. If you don’t ask, you won’t get the most. The reason why you chose advisors is simply because they are successful, knowledgeable people with excellent networking skills. This means, they have their prior commitments and are never idle. So, if you ever want their help, you will have to ask them for it. You have to take the first step.
  • Understand your needs – In order to get the most out of your advisors; you will have to understand your needs. Try to figure out the kind of advice you need and who can help you in this regard, even before you hire advisors.
  • Payment – If you’re asking for helping and counting on an expert for advice, you should also be willing, or rather, happy to pay. Never delay payments and make sure that these paid the exact amount of equities and remunerations as decided in the contract.
  • Mutual respect – Any and every contractual relationship is based on mutual respect. Therefore, you should particularly ensure that you are respectable toward your chosen group of advisors. At the same time, ensure that you too are getting the same respect. Although many advisors come with more experience and scopes than the entrepreneurs, if you don’t feel respected, don’t waste your time with them.

The startup advisory board is quite different from other board of advisors. It is more of a role, dealing with mentorship and its members do not really have any fiduciary responsibilities to the organization or the stakeholders. Once your company evolves from the startup stage, you will need a proper board of directors.

In order to bring in real money and proper credibility to your startup, you will have to avoid costly development strategies. A proper advisory board is a minor investment and can be really handy for your business. In this regard, don’t be hesitant or afraid to ask people who are out of your realm. Always remember that, unless you ask, you never get to avail the best.

All in all, if you’re looking for someone who’ll do some great job for your company, a startup advisor can be an extremely viable decision. From providing sound advice to helping in recruitment, coming up with new ideas or making new connections; a startup advisor indeed comes with a series of multifaceted functions. Your relationship with the advisor, like any other relationship, will require energy, mutual respect, trust, communication, and commitment. So wait no more and choose the right experts to enjoy the best from your business.

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