Essential Advisors - 5 People You Need on Your Startup Team

Do you need a high-profile advisor to help you get your business off the ground? You might think so from reading the business news, which often reports that someone like Jack Welch or Carly Fiorina has joined the advisory board of an exciting new start-up. Do you really need someone like that – or at least the local equivalent?
In fact, if you look a bit closer, you’ll see that the “start-ups” with the blue-chip advisory boards tend to be fairly mature companies. They’ll usually have a corporate structure and a full slate of officers to manage ongoing operations. Experts observe that the real purpose of celebrity advisors is to help raise funding or to publicize an upcoming initial public offering (IPO).
Realistically, the “stars” of business are generally too busy to provide a meaningful commitment to another company. Having someone in a mentor role is a good idea. But it’s important this be a person who has experience that’s relevant to you and your company. It is also good if they are local, so you can meet face to face. And they should be able to commit a minimum amount of time, for example two to three hours per month, for the relationship to be useful.
By definition, emerging companies have yet to staff up. For example, you probably don’t have either a full-time, or even a part-time, CFO. Thus, it’s important to establish a banking relationship with someone who can provide consultative services in addition to the banking products you need. The same goes for legal advice, accounting services, and insurance. Find someone who can sit on the same side of the table with you and focus on being your advocate and consultant, instead of merely selling you a product or service.

Game Plan

  • There are many ways to find an excellent mentor. Here’s an article where several different entrepreneurs describe the close encounters that helped them establish this all-important relationship.
  • Entrepreneur has an article on proactive steps you can take to identify a person who might make a suitable mentor.
  • And of course there is the venerable SCORE, which facilitates online contact with potential mentors.
  • And here’s a resource, ACCION, that connects micro-entrepreneurs with micro-finance institutions and offers business training and education.
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