How To Get the Most Out of an Advisor

How To Get the Most Out of an Advisor
Photo by KOBU Agency / Unsplash

You’ve decided that getting an advisor could really help your business grow and provide some much-needed expertise. So how do you go about ensuring that you really make the most out of the relationship, and how can you harness the real value that advisors can bring to your business?

Here are some key pointers in developing a great relationship with your advisor, how to engage effectively, and what pitfalls to be aware of.

Structuring an advisory relationship

We suggest taking a professional approach to structuring your relationship to ensure both you and your advisor understand what is expected from the relationship at the outset, this will also set guidance and working standards.

At Invigorate we make sure that all advisory engagements are put into writing, with the advisor time and compensation clearly defined. This includes roles and responsibilities, as well as outcomes, that both parties expect from the relationship.

We also give your arrangement all the legal structure you may need binding the relationship into a tripartite agreement. The liability of the delivery of the outcomes is up to the advisor. We include other elements to cover you such as confidentiality clauses, and give you the flexibility to add any further details which might wish to in your own separate legal agreement.

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 and lessons learnt from running and scaling their own businesses. This relationship might also be helpful for certain commercial introductions
  • 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

Putting together a working pattern

It’s important to ensure that each task or output you ask of your advisor is clearly and simply defined to ensure that both parties understand what is expected. There should be some sort of measurable or numerical guidelines associated with the engagement, as well as the time frames in which you both expect these outcomes to be achieved. It’s also worth ensuring exploring that both parties feel that the outcomes are achievable and realistic. For example, if you are expecting an advisor to help you with commercial introductions, ensure you are both aware how many introductions are expected, in what timeframe and of what nature.

Not every aspect of advice can be quantified but it is helpful to set up periodic meetings that are dedicated to understanding how the relationship is working. This provides a perfect forum and opportunity for issues to be aired and discussed. This also allows your advisor the opportunity to explain what might not be going to plan as planned or what he/she needs extra support on.

If you are meeting monthly, ensure that you have given your advisor sufficient time and materials up front to ponder and prepare. Don’t forget advisors are extremely busy, as are you as a CEO, but for maximum input you need to be clear and prepared for meetings.

It’s also worth exploring how often you would like to review your relationship with an advisor, and revisit the relationship as a whole. Agreeing to a periodic relationship review specific time period for a review of the relationship, you may say you need an advisor for a specific period, which allows both parties to prepare and for a review. This also encourages an advisor to be involved and present.

When setting up a project it’s often difficult to think of all aspects but here’s a checklist to ensure that you’ve both outlined the ways of working:

  • Are the engagement’s outputs and outcomes clearly defined and actionable?
  • What is the time-frame for the sub-tasks to be completed by?
  • When should periodic meetings be agreed and set-up?
  • How many days in advance materials will be shared?
  • Whether or not meeting minutes will be taken, drawn up or shared afterwards?
  • Who will circulate follow-up actions?
  • How quickly or what is the maximum time should actions be taken by?

Communicating with your Advisor

Depending on your contractual relationship, you’ll meet with your advisor as often as you’ve agreed. It’s all about communication – this will form the basis of a strong relationship. When you do meet, you should invest some planning time to really maximise the value you will receive from your advisor: this includes preparation, a structured agenda and any relevant information shared ahead of meeting. It’s also good practice to establish common reporting and status updates. We also recommend keeping your advisor updated on certain issues – during some big challenges, you may want to make sure that your advisors are in the loop.

If you don’t think you’re getting enough value, start with a conversation. Talk to your advisor and be honest. Refer back to your contract and have an open conversation.

Despite communication and preparation, things may not go according to plan. Keep an eye out for danger signs that suggest something is going wrong. And take action as soon as you identify a potential problem, before it escalates.

For example:

  • Is the advisor trying to tie you into an inflexible agreement?
  • Is the advisor reluctant to commit to specific targets and deadlines?
  • Does the advice you are getting reflect your own particular circumstances and priorities?
  • Are you getting advice you can use and that leads to business benefits?
  • Is the relationship producing what you expect and are deadlines being hit? Are you building a relationship of trust – does the advisor let you know when you are making a mistake?
  • Are you progressing towards your overall objectives, or does everything seem to lead to a need for yet more advice?
  • Do your calls get returned and does the advisor turn up on time for meetings?
  • Do you look forward to meetings with the advisor?

Are you ready to start your Advisor engagement?