Finding and securing an advisor can be a key factor for the success of your business.
But as much as it may feel like there are many ways to find one - there’s online networking, face-to-face events, recommendations… - these routes can often be time-consuming and very hit-and-miss.
In your search, you may also come up against a number of ‘myths’ about advisors! For more on that, check out our other blog article over here.
In this guide, we’re going to focus on how to find the best advisors for your business, and how you can do it more efficiently so you’re not wasting precious time and effort.
What to look for in an advisor
They say the founder/co-founder relationship is like a marriage. Well the advisor/advisee relationship isn’t far off that analogy either!
Not only do you need to make sure that your advisor knows about your sector and can help you with the specific stage your business is at, but you also need to be comfortable with your advisor on a personal level.
Here are our top things to look out for in an advisor as you suss out each other over that introductory coffee or Zoom call!
Make sure your advisor has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of your business’ stage and the pain associated with growing and scaling businesses of your size.
Questions you should ask include:
What businesses have you worked with in the past? What stages were they at?
How did you take X company to the next level?
How did you play a part in X company’s success?
Assess your advisor’s industry expertise. Do they have a deep understanding of the market dynamics of your industry? Do they know other key individuals that will help answer your questions and who you can foster relationships with?
Questions you should ask include:
What sectors have you worked in in the past?
How do you keep up-to-date with the latest trends in X market?
Can you give me an example of where you’ve made an introduction to someone in your network who has then gone on to help that business in some way?
Check against your specific challenges. You’ll often be facing a particular challenge - for example, how to navigate a raise, how to expand internationally, what you should do about your marketing function, how to scale your sales organisation… Advisors with a specific skill set will be able to bring their experience to your business to maximise and accelerate your success.
Questions you should ask include:
Where do you feel your greatest strengths are?
What challenges have you faced with other businesses in the past?
What have you enjoyed tackling the most?
You’ll notice that the above might sound a bit like an interview! Well it is!
Albeit you may flesh these things out over a few different meetings and in a more casual way, to all intents and purposes, you should treat it like a two-way interview so you uncover the things that will make a real difference to your business
What advisors are looking for from you
Continuing on with that marriage analogy, it goes without saying that advisors will be sussing you out too to make sure you’re right for them!
And whilst it probably won’t be quite as harrowing as an investor pitch or a due diligence analysis, you will have to demonstrate certain skills and ambitions to potential advisors.
This is your opportunity to position your business in the best light possible! To show off that great growth you’ve achieved and also share your plans for the future.
Here are some of the areas you should think about before your initial advisor meeting - and of course make sure you have plenty of examples to back them up!
High potential based on great growth so far (yes, have those numbers to hand!)
Enthusiasm and an ambition to succeed
A well rounded team
A good fit for what they believe in
More specifically, try to think about times when you and your team have worked through difficult challenges - how did you behave, what did you do and what were the outcomes?
This will give a good insight to the advisor on how you operate and also where some of your gaps might lie.
As you get into that second or third meeting, then you’ll want to delve a bit more into the opportunities you see for your business.
Call out some of the obstacles you’ve had in the past, or some of the skills that perhaps your team has been lacking. You don’t necessarily want to be airing all your dirty laundry here, but you do want to paint an honest picture in a constructive way such that your advisor can see where future opportunities lie.
Yes, the very best advisors want to work with the very best businesses. But ‘best’ can mean different things for different people.
So don’t be discouraged if an advisor declines to work with your business - it may just be because they already have businesses like yours in their portfolio, or they’re looking for a very specific type of challenge in this stage of their own career.
Just remember to take the opportunity while you have it and ask for onward connections that your advisor can recommend!
You may be starting to think that this all sounds like a lengthy and effortful process - and it can be! But your advisor is a really important part of your team, so vetting them in a methodical way is something you don’t want to skip.
Luckily, our platform does this all for you! Here’s how...
The criteria we use to vet our advisors
We’ve seen first hand how time-consuming this process is, but we’ve also seen the results it can yield when done properly.
Our platform is built on an AI-matching algorithm that actually accelerates the process. We also have a strict set of criteria we use to vet our advisors before accepting them onto the platform.
These criteria are:
They have to have a certain level of strategic expertise - for example, have led businesses, been on high-growth exec teams or advised other successful SMEs.
We scrutinise how they have worked with and advised businesses before - yes, we do that interviewing for you!
How the Invigorate platform recommends advisors
Once an advisor is accepted onto our platform, they are then matched with businesses and founders using a sophisticated pairing algorithm.
To power this, we use the following information you’ll have provided us with during your own application process:
Your business stage
The area of expertise you’re looking for help with
We also layer in factors such as ‘most reviewed’, ‘most engaged’ and ‘helped businesses like yours’.
As part of the recommendation process, we’ll give you critical information about advisors to inform your decision. These include:
The ‘value set’ of the advisor - their skills and areas of expertise
A short description of their background and past experiences
A note on equity advisory arrangements
You may have read or heard about equity advisory arrangements. Well we don’t ascribe to them. And here’s why…
Your advisory needs will change over time. Whilst an advisor might be the perfect fit for you right now, they may not be able to serve your business in the future.
We encourage our businesses to find the most flexible arrangement that works. And in the process, be open with your advisor about your current budget and needs.
That way when you hit your short and medium term goals, and then your requirements change, you can adjust your advisory needs accordingly.
Finding the right advisor for your business can be one of the most rewarding things you do for you and your team.
So making sure you find the right one is crucial.
Hopefully this guide will give you the confidence you need to structure your search.
And if you need help or advice along the way, feel free to get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org - we’re here to help!