Demystifying Advisors

Demystifying Advisors
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash

Building a world class start-up is hard! As a founder, you are building a team and a business model, a product and a marketing strategy, whilst raising investment – there is never enough bandwidth or skills to do everything your business demands. Once you’ve started, it never stops. Running a business is super challenging, it’s up to the CEO and exec team to make a success of it.

If you have hired people in your business, you’ll understand the importance of great people and the difference they can make to your growth and development as a company.

So how can an advisor help? In a nutshell, they can get you somewhere quicker than you would be able to on your own – saving time, reducing inefficiencies and helping you navigate around potholes. Providing expert guidance and support.

This is nothing new and it’s no surprise that renowned individuals and companies have succeeded when you see these famous partnerships.

  • Steve Jobs & Marc Benioff & Mark Zuckerberg
  • Socrates & Plato
  • Plato & Aristotle
  • Sir Freddie Laker & Richard Branson – ‘It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without Sir Freddie Laker’s advice.’
  • Maya Angelou & Oprah Winfrey -‘She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life, Advisors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of advisory support.’
  • Christian Dior & Yves Saint-Laurent
  • Warren Buffett & Bill Gates
  • Audrey Hepburn & Elizabeth Taylor

There are different types of support that a business can call on – and they all serve slightly different purposes. So here’s a handy guide to the different sort of advisors out there and how they help.

  • Mentor: gives advice without remuneration, an informal relationship
  • Fellow Founder: falls into the mentor category, very useful but not close enough aligned to commercial objectives
  • Executive Coach: focuses on providing emotional support for leaders and drawing themes of common challenges faced
  • Executive Consultant: execution-focused, usually brought in to complete a task
  • Investor: they may have a vested interest in the business but the reality is many investors are always be best placed to give support
  • Advisor: a combination of the above; provides tactical support and is willing to roll up their sleeves, is a trusted confidant, believes in the business and leader’s vision and will support the corporate development  by opening up networks and exposure
  • Board member: A formal relationship – with formal reporting and often governance responsibility. These appointments are often formed from earlier relationships. This may or may not be someone who has been advising a business.

Let’s focus on advisors here. They are primarily people that founders can open up to and trust, without the fear of being judged. These people also have enough context about the company, team, and the market, to meaningfully weigh on any decision. Here are some of the benefits advisors can bring to companies:

  • Deep knowledge and expertise
  • Accelerated access to their commercial networks
  • Experience of running and scaling businesses
  • Knowledge of common pitfalls
  • Industry expertise and latest market developments
  • Lessons learnt from across different businesses
  • Help run the company better and guide on building teams and creating departments
  • Fostering communication and corporate culture
  • Achieve goals faster
  • Assist with fundraising process
  • Knowledge and thought around exit strategies
  • Provide credibility

There are a variety of ways in which you can engage an advisor:

  • A few hours / days a month for strategic advice, helpful and challenging questions
  • A few days a week, typically used for on-going supportive relationships, helping set departments up for scaling success
  • For a project basis, if a specific outcome that needs to delivered and your business needs hands on support, this could be a fundraise or a large executive recruitment spree