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Pick Your Board of Advisors Before You Launch Your Business
I vividly remember my first days in high school, college, and my first job in the real world because of all the mistakes I made on those specific days. I bought the wrong books, went to the wrong rooms, sat at the wrong lunch table and showed up late for everything. Life was certainly not easy—but I had no one to blame but myself. And my troubles could have been avoided if I did a little bit of work before I embarked on each new adventure. I likely would have dramatically reduced the stress and anxiety associated with starting something new.
If you are planning to launch a new business, or if you recently started one, here is the best possible piece of advice I can give you: Don’t try and do it all on your own! Starting and managing a business is hard enough—there are potholes and pitfalls everywhere! If you make a few bad decisions early on in your business, you might suddenly find yourself between a rock and a hard place—with very little room to fix what you broke. How do you avoid making costly errors and mistakes early in your life as an entrepreneur? Form a board of advisors—people who have walked the same path that you are taking right now—and who know where to go and what to avoid. How much more secure would you be with the knowledge that you had access to a team of experts who could measurably reduce the number of mistakes you would make in the first year of business? Ideally, a board of advisors includes people who know you (and your strengths and weaknesses) and can hold you accountable. The advisors should also complement your areas of expertise. For example, if you excel in sales or marketing, find advisors with backgrounds in technology, social media, financing or legal. How do you assemble a board of advisors? Ask people you trust to recommend others they think can help you. Or consider:
- Other business owners: People who own businesses in the same local area can offer great insight on what consumers want and how to best appeal to them.
- Friends: You probably have friends who are successful—and it doesn’t matter if they’re entrepreneurs or employees. Your friends can offer their insights from the consumer perspective. Do you have friends who are particularly savvy in certain areas of business? You want them on your board of advisors.
- Mentors: These are people who’ve had experience in a similar field or industry. They know where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them.
- Financial advisor: It’s important to have someone on your board who knows financial issues.
Be clear about your expectations. Have the participants sign nondisclosure agreements (to protect your business ideas) and release of liability forms (to protect them if they give you bad advice). How often you need to meet with your board is up to you. Once a month is fine when you’re starting out—you’ll be quite busy with other tasks and won’t have time to host weekly board meetings. In between meetings, keep them posted via email about your business. Think about your team of advisors as an extra set of eyes and ears that hopefully will see and hear what you miss as you start and grow your new business.
This post was written in partnership with Progressive Insurance. I have been compensated, but the thoughts and ideas are my own. For additional small business tips, check out Progressive’s Small Business Big Dreams program.