Call them mentors. Call them advisors. Call them business friends. These are the people you reach out to when you are in a quandary regarding an issue that you are struggling with. This group can be a very organized advisor group (meet regularly as a group) or they can be an ad hoc resource called upon in the moment. Every one of us has one of these quandaries that you just cant quite seem to get a good handle on.
What kind of role can a good advisor play?
- Identify your business "blind spots" and help you manage them
- Make critical introductions to investors, future employees & customers
- Offer actionable advice on hiring/firing
- Provide insights (from experience) on "around the corner" issues.
The best founders have created this advisor group and there a ton of great resources to draw up on for identifying, developing and utilizing a set of advisors.
A few of the key points to understand about a good advisor:
- They should be compensated (small amount of equity)
- You need to set and continually manage your mutual expectations
- They have the desire and ability to roll up their sleeves when needed
- You respect their time - all of the time.
All of this makes sense and may even be obvious, and there are many resources to figure out how to go about it. Just do a simple search.
But there is one subtle almost nuanced element that can make or break any one of the above items and that is transparency. I am not referring to the open exchange of your financials. Nor am I talking about your shared vision inside and outside the company. I am referring to the stuff you might share on a psychiatrist couch. You know, that stuff.
A great advisor cannot help you without you sharing the most fundamental core of what you are struggling with and why.
Many if not most issues are not business issues per se. These issues are leadership issues and thus have squishy edges where there is no perfectly right answer. Most issues surround you and your willingness to own the entire issue. It is why you have to be able to share exactly where your discomfort lies.
This is why some of your investors can make for the wrong advisors for you. If you cannot go to that place with them, then you need other advisors that you can get there with.
If you are using advisors to help the business and not to help you, great. Just understand that you are limiting their ability to help you. If you want to get down into the tough areas, then you must find advisors that want to go there with you, then you need to go there. Trust me, having a set of people that you can reveal your deepest fears without recrimination is an awesome tool. Do you a favor, add that tool to your CEO toolbox.