Every ambitious, high-performing entrepreneur dreams of building and growing a concept or company to scale. Surpassing the million-dollar mark within the first 12 to 24 months comes with a unique set of challenges, especially if you are trying to do without a team of advisers.
Most of the hit reality shows, such as Dragons' Den and Shark Tank, potentially create an illusion that you can do it all by yourself. However, after a few years of being a "one-man band," it became clear that I needed advisers on my team if I wanted to surpass the million-dollar mark.
Building an advisory board requires an investment in an unbiased group of experts, who will invest in the collective success and growth of your company. This is not a group of friends and family but, rather, one of proven leaders in their profession.
According to Nonprofit Quarterly, the primary purpose of assembling your advisory team is to "talk, explore, argue, disagree, offer insights, and learn together to produce meaningful results and impact." The advice of team members is nonbinding; however, their insights will create lasting value for the growth of your business. Their roles must be unique and represent the highest-quality group of successful leaders in their field.
My first board of advisers consisted of seven brilliant individuals, with diverse professional perspectives, who helped to identify and address all deficiencies so I could continue to work on growing the company, rather than working in the company. Here are the seven members who need to have a role on your advisory board:
1. An attorney
A great legal expert will serve as a referee between you and any future legal issues, which can potentially arise while your company grows. Connect with a business attorney early in the development of your concept to avoid, for example, trademark or copyright disputes and contract issues (never write contracts yourself); to create operation agreements for your board members and partnership terms; and to onboard investors.
Don't try to figure it out yourself. Business disputes, especially during the growth stage, can become costly if you choose to try to avoid consulting an expert.
2. A certified public accountant
Always have a professional on board to keep track of the numbers. A great accountant will be in charge of recordkeeping and advise on methods to watch expenditures, write-offs, and profit margins. A CPA on your advisory board will keep you aware of profit performance and your P&L.
3. A marketing and branding expert
Although everyone provides marketing suggestions today, make sure you save a seat for a marketing professional who has proven results. My advice: Onboard a marketing expert who represents a company you admire. Your marketing adviser will help you reach your ideal group of core customers, so you can steadily increase margins.
4. A certified financial planner
Once your company begins to grow, you will need to invest wisely. The financial adviser's role is to assist you in deciding on the best investments for the company.
Once you scale, you may want to begin acquiring or collaborating with your competitors to increase market share. The moment I noticed significant growth, our financial adviser called a meeting to suggest how to grow our capital without acquiring new customers but by investing in other companies. The financial adviser will help you identify the right investments for your long-term goals.
5. A chief executive officer
For many years, I attended meetings at my local SCORE chapter, which was provided by the Small Business Administration. It was evident that to scale, I needed a CEO on my advisory team. The CEO is unique to the value of the organization -- he or she will mentor you on leadership.
The role of CEO is not one that should be taken lightly. There are levels of executive and fiduciary responsibility that create unusual demands on building a team to delegate specific roles. Also, at this stage, you will learn how to build your leadership and HR team.
6. A professional copywriter or editor
A professional copywriter on your board is a necessity. The person will edit the content that will be distributed to future shareholders, partners, clients, customers, suppliers, etc. Scale requires quality. You may be a great writer; however, executive proposals require a different language.
7. A potential customer or client
Although you are equipped with the best advisers, you need to ensure that your core customers or clients are connecting with your business model as well. The role of having your ideal client on your advisory board is strictly for feedback on everything from marketing and pricing to product placement and messaging. Think of it as an in-house focus group. We currently have two of our ideal clients on our advisory team who deliver excellent feedback before we launch specific products and services.