Selecting an advisory board for your startup - simplified
If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’re now a pin up board for advice. Your journey from an idea to a tangible business has sought advice from many – experts or otherwise. Although this advice has been of great value, a business that’s running with a steady engine will face newer and more challenging obstacles and will need something of more substance to maintain a clear field of vision. A board of advisors will give you exactly that. Deciding to put together this board is the mark of business maturity because it has the potential to influence all your future decisions. It’s not the easiest of tasks simply because it’s a matter of putting your trust in somebody, and trust has never come easy. Understanding the process, however, will ensure you take small, steady steps till you have your reliable board of advisors.
Image : shutterstock
Know the needs of your startup
Before beginning to look out for advisors, it is necessary to know what your startup needs that you can’t contribute yourself. List your knowledge and expertise against the problem areas in your business model. You will then realise the gaps you need to fill to keep the structure steady. Locating the focal points of your problems will clearly tell you whose counsel you should seek.. If your startup is struggling with public relations, for instance, and if it has been for a while, you’ll know it is time to concede to an expert in that area.
Who to pick?
Your business needs someone with staggering experience. An experienced person will be able to tell you, unwaveringly, where you might be going wrong and how you should correct it. They can put a value on risks, indicating whether or not they are worth your investment. You need an assortment of such experienced people to make up your advisory board; select expertise on diverse business areas where you could use improvement.
If they have the experience, they will undoubtedly have a far-reaching influence. The members of your board should make your business more trustworthy and credible with their long-familiar influence on the business world. The more influential they are the better is your reach into this world; prominent businessmen also tend be a valuable source of contacts of potential investors.
Their experience and influence will account to nothing if they cannot invest time in your startup. To do that, they will first need to be genuinely interested in your business. So look for a keen interest and the willingness to dedicate the required amount of time to improve your startup.
Once you know where and how you could use help, start making a list of people suitable for that role. Aim for all the prominent players in the field, even if they seem out of reach. The advantage of dreaming big here is, even if you don’t succeed in catching their attention, you will have made valuable contacts in the process – a few precious stones while digging for a diamond. Sometimes you might just acquire that diamond so grit your teeth and go for it.
After you’ve decided whom to go after, make sure the first contact with them is through a mediator – preferably a business contact – someone who could introduce you. This improves your chances of getting a response. If you do get a response, a personal meeting is ideal for the sake of lucid conversations. Be prepared with your pitch. It may be that you are selecting them, but it is they who decide if they want to work with you or not. Use the meeting to see if they have all the qualities your business could use, ask questions regarding their business expertise and how it could be integrated with your business model. One meeting, however, might not be sufficient. Both parties may need a better understanding of the other so be patient and persistent.
The right members for your advisory board will serve as a nitro boost to your startup. More importantly, though, they will have you accelerating in the right direction.