A trusted team of talented advisors can be essential to the success of any business. But how do you go about finding the right ones for your business? And after you have identified them, what is the best way to utilize their expertise?
In this three-part series I’ll share tips on how to find good advisors and after adding them to your team, the best way to leverage their skills to foster the growth and success of your business.
For the first two parts, I am focusing on hiring for an advisory board. While advisory boards can be invaluable, any successful business needs to hire professional advisors as well. In part three, I’ll discuss what professional advisors you need to hire.
- Don’t hire advisors from your fan club
You may have some friends and colleagues who listen to your business ideas and respond with enthusiasm, cheering your every decision. These are not the people you want advising you. You want to find people that challenge your ideas, present opposing sides of view and are not afraid to play devil’s advocate.
A good advisor will bring up issues and concerns that you may not have considered, laying the groundwork for you to deal with those issues now and travel down the right path, rather than pay for those mistakes later.
While it may feel more natural and certainly more comfortable to surround yourself with people who share your outlook, they will function more as “yes” people than advisors. You need someone to challenge your less viable ideas and present alternative viewpoints.
- Look outside your existing network
Seek out new networking opportunities to expand your circle and find people with successful businesses who may be able to help. Finding the time to make and foster these contacts can be particularly challenging during high-growth periods for your business, but networking can pay off in ways you can’t foresee. As author Jared Kintz said, “Unless you are a pile of cat hair, you can’t succeed in a vacuum.”
- Hire advisors with different areas of expertise and skill sets
Identify areas of expertise where you are less than proficient and seek out advisors with relationships and experience in those areas. Maybe you have a great product, an excellent design team and people with marketing experience, but not the necessary expertise to reach your target market. Find an advisor who has those contacts.
Having access to skill sets your business lacks is crucial. I once worked with a university that was in dire straits. One of the issues it was facing is that senior management was trying to handle areas that were outside their expertise. That does not go well.
Finding a good, functional advisory board takes some time and effort. Some business people forego it altogether, perhaps believing as Judge Arthur Goldberg did, “If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock.” While that may be true of some advisory boards that seem to serve as more as hindrances than boots to progress, if you find the right team of advisors you’ll have a better chance of smooth sailing.