Our company has grown substantially in the past 5 years and we believe having advisors we can meet with regularly will help us become better managers and business people. What characteristics do you look for in a business advisor and what's the best way to choose?
The best advisors are those with real world experience-not just academic credentials-someone who has been there, done that. Also important, industry or company type experience (e.g., service company, software, manufacturing...). Look for someone who compliments your strengths and offsets your weaknesses. For example, I work with entreprenuers who have vision, yet lack the discipline to consistently implement their plan. I meet regularly with them to help them focus and be accountable.
Much of it starts with knowing your own business. You want a diverse set of advisors. Some have experience, some have fresh ideas, advice needs to come from practical and impractical sources that all offer a strategic value in making decisions and directing the business.
An Advisory Board brings clarity in decision making; and best of the CI (competitive intelligence) backed market aspects, especially for a firm entering a success/growth cycle between 4-8 years.
It takes 3 pillars to build a strong roof of an Advisory Board:
1) Your offering (Services or Product): Rule of the thumb says, shortlist members who have expertise in the field of your offering; or to the least think of fetching someone which matches the horizontal integration of industry field.
2) Exposure and Numbers: My magic number (of recommendation) for you is 1.5 members per operational year of your business, once you cross 2 years. There are many factors to it, however given your growth and operational years (presuming all 5 years), you shall look for 4-5 advisers for your ''Advisory Board'.
'Exposure' is synonym to your characteristic point: Avoid approaching people whose skills/expertise is only limited to Law and Finance (Accounts and Investment Bankers) - but I believe you know it already as a universal rule. Always be open to people who are not hungry for money and part share of your company, but really interested and see your vision/mission a real hit. This leads to my third pillar...
3) Clear, Brief & Straight Agenda: Never, never, never approach any potential member with an open-ended agenda. I personally have this filter while reading/meeting people around. Tell them (in brief, watch no. of words below) what you are planning, how much you have achieved, where your target/milestones is, and what hurdles you need they can help you overcome:
Express your very first approach by using a simple pitch (in person or in written or in a presentation):
100 words: What your company do? Customers? Market Size?
50 words: Few quick statistics to help them envision your achievements and/ or under-achievements.
150 words: Purpose of approach. This is where you shall describe your problem/ targets/ mission/ milestone to achieve; including where so you think that member/adviser could be of help (link this to his background/exposure i.e. why you shortlisted him/her for this potential alliance)
I hope it helps. Good Luck.
Feel free to reach out in case you need a thorough discussion.