All too often, startup entrepreneurs decide to venture on this journey all on their own. They isolate themselves and only interact with friends and family as a means of bouncing ideas around or making decisions. Many want to trust their instincts and create their way. Though tempting for most, this tactic can have limited success, if any. And without a business adviser early on, there’s a slim chance of long-term success.
Unlike co-founders or investors, advisers aren’t looking for a slice of your business. Their job is more of a mentorship where they provide you with advice and can sometimes do some work on your behalf. Many of them have been business owners, themselves, at some point or another, and can warn you of various pitfalls or what roads mostly lead to success. In the majority of cases, this is a paid position, but some equity isn’t off the table.
Mentoring is a widespread practice in the lower ranks of organizations, with the more seasoned staff members teaching novices the ropes. It’s a new age of apprenticeship if you will. Unsurprisingly, these types of investments tend to pay off pretty well. Research shows that it helps mid-level professionals advance much faster, earn more, and gain more satisfaction from their work.
The practice of mentorship and advising does seem to be somewhat limited to employees and not CEOs. Nevertheless, many of today’s top founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin, all had mentors and here’s why you should too.
A Higher Chance of Success
A 2013 Stanford executive survey determined that over 80% of successful CEOs had access to some form of mentorship or business advisory board. When looking at a technical entrepreneur, for instance, they are well equipped and versed to handle a wide array of issues that may arise.
Nevertheless, business advisers can bring a lot to the table regarding diverse backgrounds, educations, and skill sets. These will help entrepreneurs look at things from a different perspective and formulate better decisions down the line.
Business Advisers Will Challenge Your Ideas
Very few employees will dare ask critical questions at the right time, and fewer still will challenge the boss’s ideas. While this may seem like how businesses should run, in that there needs to be someone to give direction, not all opinions deserve the same amount of credit, regardless of who’s providing them.
Say, the management team comes up with a great business development idea and the staff is feeling energized to see it through. It may seem like an optimal scenario in the majority of cases. But if there’s no one to ask the critical questions, these ideas can go unchecked and become somewhat circular and unfeasible down the line.
Business advisers will be there, not to dampen your spirits or act as naysayers, but to sharpen your thought process and fill in any gaps in your strategy. They will be there to ask the right questions and offer their complementary skills so that you can diversify your options.
Startup founders frequently surround themselves with other founders like themselves. It is great for sharing ideas exchanging useful information, tips, and so on. Unfortunately, however, startup founders don’t have nearly as much experience under their belt as business advisers have. So, in addition to providing you with an outside perspective, they can also put you in contact with people from outside your industry.
They are in a better position to know someone that has the necessary experience and expertise to address various issues that your business may encounter down the road, better assess the situation, and solve the problem in ways that you may not imagine. To put it just, business advisors can and will broaden your network and help you establish common relationships with numerous experts that you may not, otherwise, come in contact with as quickly.
It’s also important to keep in mind that business advisers have built up their experience over long years of working in their respective fields. And during this time, they’ve also managed to build a reputation as successful and accomplished leaders. It means that they are people of influence and know others with the weight that can help you leverage yourself up for more rapid scalability.
It is relatively safe to say that one of the most time-consuming and complicated, confusing process for the startup entrepreneur is to attract potential investors and raise capital for their emerging business. A business adviser, though not able to guarantee you the funds directly, will radically improve your odds in navigating the entire process of fundraising. They will give you the necessary insight into what are the best practices as well as help you bypass any unnecessary obstacles or pitfalls in where so many startups fail.
On a similar note, once you’ve got past the angel investor and seed stages, you’ll frequently encounter third-party investors looking into businesses to see whether they have business advisers or not. Most often, they are looking for an advisory board. The advisory board is a somewhat informal group of professionals that give their input on their field of expertise.
And since this is an informal group, you have more leeway regarding its composition. You can create this advisory board based on what your business needs, say a legal adviser, a marketing expert, an accountant, HR expert, etc. When a startup has such a group of diverse professionals making up the advisory board, it will serve as a market validation for potential investors.
The reason for this is that most investors are aware that business advisers can and will help you prepare a more robust business, evaluate growth plans, and carry the business forward.
Having one or more of these business advisers onboard early on can be a significant benefit to your startup for all the reasons we mentioned above. One last fact to remember, however, is that professional advisers will not necessarily line up at your door unless they feel comfortable that your business can deliver.
You can be sure that they’ll do their research and will be unlikely to participate unless they believe that both the startup and the founder are up for the challenge that lies ahead. In other words, by having a business adviser on your team is, in a sense, a validation of your business’ future success.