Separating The Wheat From The Chaff – Getting The Most From Advisers

Start up companies get a lot interest from potential advisers that would like to be affiliated with an early stage company. Excellent advisers can make a lot of difference for your company, especially in the early stages. How then to figure out which advisers are likely to be most helpful to you and how you can use them?

This is an important task because a poor choice around advisers can cause many problems. It can be too easy to yield to more experienced counsel and spend a lot of time on courses of action that don’t move the ball forward. This is not a mistake that you want to make because at a precarious early stage you can suffer a lot of damage to the company.

Our experience at TSF says there are two things to focus on regarding advisers:

  • Picking the right ones in the first place, and
  • Deciding what to use from the advice you have received

Getting the right advisers involves getting the right expertise delivered with the right attitude and intentions. A good adviser will be very aware of the role that he/she should play in advising. At the end of the day it is your company. The choice of a course of action and the strategy used to reach your goals needs to lie with the founders. It’s important that your advisers recognize this.

It’s also important that your advisers have timely, relevant experience that is on point for you. The best fit is someone who has been in an operating role in your space or a similar one. Better yet is someone who has done that over the last 5-7 years. The methods of customer acquisition and developing “proof that you are onto something” have been revolutionized inside that time period. Direct experience on the path you are walking with a “lean startup” approach is likely to be the most helpful setup for you.

Invariably, the advice you receive will conflict. How do you (especially if you’re a less experienced entrepreneur) know which advice to follow? Part of the answer is experience. You will get a sense over the course of a few meetings/issues covered about the quality of one person’s advice compared to another. Don’t be afraid to make decisions about whose advice to follow; your instincts will give you a good place to start on this.

Finally, if you find yourself in perpetual conflict with your advisers one of two things is happening. Maybe you have all the wrong advisers. On the other hand, maybe you are committing the entrepreneurial sin of listening only to your favorite adviser – you!