We are all looking for that pesky advantage that will help propel us into the Uber zone (all puns intended). One of the areas you have locked onto is your desire to identify and bring into the fold some key advisors. Great! I still believe this is the best way to eliminate or reduce company-breaking decisions.
A few weeks back I discussed the signs that your advisor is a fraud--please review this to ensure that you have the right people in the room. Bad advice delivered well is a dangerous ingredient in your business recipe.
So, you found your advisor group to help shepherd you through those difficult times. Now what? Ask a few questions and wait for the universe-expanding insight to pour in? My big question for you--are you ready to get and use the advice given?
Here are five ways for you to take advice and optimize your advisors:
- Create the right advisory environment. Some like coffee shops. Some like to operate alone without other advisors. Some need pre-work to prepare accordingly. Your job is to figure out the best way to engage with each advisor so that they can deliver to you the best they got. Most first-timers think that they actually have to meet as a group. This is not the case. Most think that they have to meet at regular intervals. This is also not the case. This is your party and you can operate in whatever fashion suits your needs. Advisors are there to serve you. My only ask is that you set clear expectations for each of you.
- Be transparent. This is not a show on your part. You are not there to prove to them how smart you are. The opposite is actually true. The advisors are there to represent your deficiencies in skills or experience. By definition, you need to be totally transparent about those gaps. Miss this and this turns into a light networking meeting. Go all in and you can get some great stuff.
- Ask great questions. Seems obvious, right? If you don't probe deeply into the areas you are concerned about then you lose the opportunity to leverage their expertise and experience. I think about the 5 Why's track where you need to delve deeper and deeper into the subject until you really uncover the core elements of the issue. (A great advisor will be doing the same back at you.)
- Listen and process. Do you really listen? Or are you ready to counter the argument with your better thoughts? Do you answer or do you listen? Day after day I see entrepreneurs arguing their point. It's your final decision so why argue? You are there to receive solid advice and feedback. Not all of it will be right. You will decide that later. But give the alternative thinking a chance instead or re-arming yourself with the next argument.
- Follow up. I call it respect. Build a little more every day. You engaged for 30-60 minutes and you asked a ton of questions. You looked for examples where your advisor experienced the same issue and you probed deeply into the issue. Now what? Go back to the office and you think about what you heard. Maybe you write some notes down. Maybe you recorded the talk on your phone so you can listen to it without being in it. Regardless, after you processed the information and made a decision--double back with your advisor(s) and share with them your decision and why. No need to make this awkward. Thank them for their help and move on.
Advisors can be a critical element to your success if you choose right and let them in. But the burden falls on you to actually take the advice and use it in ways that help you make better decision.