How well you advance in your business venture largely comes from building a relationship with the person who can help you navigate the uncertainty of entrepreneurship--your startup advisor. Their job is to help you get where you need to go. A startup advisor is similar to a mentor but someone who is more invested in the success of a venture. In some instances a startup advisor may even receive some small ownership of the company for their guidance and network.
My experience as a startup advisor has given me first-hand experience on best practices for how founders can leverage an advisor. In five impactful steps, you can get the most out of your startup advisor to grow your venture:
1. Identify the specific organizational gap your advisor can fill.
Employ your advisor's help in the area in which they are most skilled. If the advisor has relationships in a specific target market that you are looking to sell to, make your ask specific to their core competency.
You may need guidance on how to train employees or launch a new product. Figure out the dimension of your gap, fill it, and use your advisor to bounce ideas off of to produce solutions.
2. Keep your advisor informed.
Periodic stakeholder update emails keeps your advisor aware of where you are in the development process. A consistent flow of communication shows you are serious about the success of your business and value the expert advice of your mentor.
Be sure it's comprehensive and includes an overview of company news and recent accomplishments, operations status, top priorities for the upcoming period, and your "asks," or what you need help with.
3. Be open to feedback.
Ultimately the venture is yours to guide as an entrepreneur, but it's important to strike a balance between holding on to your vision and being flexible with future of your venture. Digesting feedback and listening to your advisor's unique perspective is important as a founder. They can help you look at your business or function from all angles and open your mind to other possibilities.
4. Plan regular meetings.
Countless business relationships eventually grow stale because they lack regular communication. To ensure yours doesn't lose momentum, schedule regular meetings to tackle your specific asks or get their perspective on a specific business issue. Before each meeting, plan what you're going to discuss, take notes, and follow up with an action plan and next steps.
5. Manage your expectations.
Unrealistic expectations can derail a business relationship. Don't assume your advisor has the same understanding of a situation, project, deadline, or task that you do.
Take some time to think about what you want from your advisor and then openly discuss expectations, how they might be accomplished, and how success will be measured. Learn their communication style so you can speak their language and ensure your expectations are in line with what they can produce.
Maintaining a positive relationship with your advisor is one of the best ways to increase the chances of startup success. With a little extra effort put into better communication, open-mindedness, and purposeful planning, you're well on your way to building a strong brand.
How do you maximize your advisor relationships?