I recently had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany Pham, the Founder and CEO of MOGUL— a new media platform that connects women to trending content including stories, products and jobs that are personalized to their interests — and it turns out we have something important in common. We’re both strong advocates for advisory councils.
Tiffany’s council of eight includes media personalities, lawyers and successful CEOs. She says her council has been instrumental to her in building the business, fundraising and providing her with external talent she can turn to on demand.
“From the onset, our Advisors proved invaluable in meeting our mission, providing our team with insights, resources, and introductions to accelerate us forward,” she says.
If you haven’t taken the plunge yet into building your advisory council, here is why it may make more sense to create a council than to collect mentors or advisors on an ad hoc basis. An advisory council will help you:
- Access talent you can’t afford to hire
- Get leads on future investors
- Cultivate future board members
- Give you practice “managing up”
Creating an advisory council is an efficient and effective way to bring high level talent into your orbit, especially when you haven’t yet reached the point in your business where you’re ready to form an official board of advisors or can’t afford to build out your senior staff or hire expensive consultants.
There are three easy steps to getting started:
- Formalize the relationship for a win-win. While people enjoy giving advice, they often enjoy it even more when they get credit for it. Feature your advisory council on your website and in business plans and investor pitch decks. The public recognition makes advisors feel the time they invest is being valued, and they will be more likely to make introductions for you than if you have an informal relationship.
- Provide value in return. When you do this, you create a stronger two-way relationship with your advisor. In creating your advisory council, you recruit experts in their industries, and they often like to meet one another. You can provide value to them by introducing them to top people in other fields they may not have access to and inviting them to events. You also can help your advisor by sharing hot new apps and SaaS services you are using in your company.
- Create a staging ground. Your advisory council creates a kind of entry point for board members, investors, and even new hires. They can get to know you at a low commitment level, and you can see how they operate—whether they actually provide value, whether they answer your emails, and if they connect you to people who can help. Then you can invite them to get even more involved as a board member or investor.
Now, let’s talk about “managing up”
We often start our own companies as entrepreneurs because we’re big do-ers, but to be a successful manager you need to be a good leader, which requires a totally different set of skills. Having the ability to manage your stakeholders – whether advisors, investors or board members – is a learned skill. With your advisory council, you’ll be able to get practice managing your eventual board or shareholders, if you raise capital.
To start building your advisory council today:
- Make a list of the types of advisors you are seeking by industry or area of expertise
- Share your list with your friends, current mentors, past professors and business colleagues
- Make another list of those people who are already helping you, even if it’s just informally (they may be interested in serving as one of your advisors or connect you with others)
- Craft an email to invite the people on your lists to become official advisors
- Ask each advisor who agrees to be a part of your council to connect you with others who may consider being a part of your council
- Try to get 2-3 “anchor” people in place before you go out to a wider circle.
- Close the loop: show your appreciation for what advisors contribute, whether on your website, in other materials or simply by thanking them with a card or holiday gift
In order to get to the million dollar mark, you’ll need to seek help from peers, coaches and mentors. Building an advisory council is a great way to find flying buttresses—people who will hold you up and help you soar.
So now that you know just how valuable an advisory council can be, why not take two minutes and make a list of people you think would add value to your company right now (an Intellectual Property lawyer? Someone with PR experience?). Think about people you turn to already and consider making it official. They might have been waiting for you to suggest it!
Until next time,