Steve Blank covers the difference between a board of directors and an advisory board in “Don’t Give Away Your Board Seats.” I’d like to pick up where he left off. Now that you understand the importance of attracting advisers, how do you find them?
Take a look at a few successful companies you admire. Notice how the CEO has assembled a team of seasoned experts to guide the company’s growth? More than likely, your dream team is missing a few players. Your goal in building an advisory board is to understand which seasoned experts can provide guidance in deficient areas.
Determine which areas within your company you can proudly claim you do not know jack about. Once you are clear on your deficiencies, you can go to work attracting the skill sets you need.
Let’s look at a few key areas (most) startups will need to cover:
Marketing – A marketing strategy attracts your target audience to your product or service.
Branding – At a minimum you will need a logo, a website and social media presence.
Sales – It is important to have a sales strategy that outlines how you will get your target audience through the sales cycle.
PR – You will need a way to get your message in front of your target audience.
Finance – Finally, make sure you understand how money is flowing in and out of the company
You might look at the categories above and begin to cross out those that fall under DIY or outsource. Most startups can manage their PR, build a financial model and work with contractors to develop branding and marketing. The difficult part of building a company is sales. How do you scale the customer base you and your team have already begun to develop?
When you build your advisory board, select experts who can lessen your learning curve and make introductions to key customers and/or users.
In addition to those advisers who will help with your growth strategy, select experts within the field you are entering. For example, if you were building an educational technology company geared toward young children, it would be wise to reach out to experts in child development.
Nobody expects you to know everything. It is OK to admit that there are some areas you do not know jack about. A well-crafted advisory board can go a long way in mitigating the pain.