Advisory boards · Advisors

What are some best practices around working with advisors?

Lucas E Wall

February 5th, 2016

I have very good advisors who I consider part of the team and we are considering bringing more to  help us with certain areas of expertise. I'd like to know what are your experiences and best practices in working with three or four, or even more? advisors.

It feels like a Board of Advisors meeting every month is the right way, but I guess there is more.

I am wondering what has worked for you when asking, getting and managing advisors time and effort?

Do you agree to weekly, monthly individual meetings? Do you structure it one way or another? Has an unstructured approach worked best for you?

Common sense seems to gravitate towards case by case basis, but do you end up with more meetings and divergent ideas than helpful advice and work? 
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Anonymous

February 6th, 2016

Hello Lucas

I doubt there is THE answer/solution. There are best practices which I doubt they fit for the majority of startups or small businesses.

Short:
It always depends on your stage, workload/actions, staff (men-power) and priorities. The schedule you and your advisors feel comfortable with is the right schedule.

Long:
In the position of the founder/entrepreneur, I would try to keep things for my advisors as smooth as possible and don´t stress them by "forcing" attendance to meetups/confcalls that doesn´t require their expertise or attention - which should be obvious.

Therefore it depends on ...

  1. what´s been agreed upfront in which stage what fields/areas needs the advisors attention, how he is involved and (if at all) the equity agreed.
  • personally I would prefer setting the requirements and related expectations upfront also to avoid just getting kinda "smart mouthed advise" that easily leaves you with guessing what in specific needs to be done instead of receiving actionable counsel 
  • with that in mind its obvious that an advisor also needs to spend more time on a regular base
  • orchestrating advisors on different levels (e.g. birds eye and street view level) may be an option to still get hands on well known or established advisors that simply can´t spend several hours a week and generating precise output (actions) from that input (feedback) received with less busy but still very knowledgable experts and than having your own team (staff, freelancers, vendors...) performing the actions
the stage of your business: 
  • The early stage will require a lot more interaction and a weekly base might be a good idea - if not even performing short meetups more frequently but in a very condensed manner (5 minutes status update followed by 5 minutes Q&A, followed by 5 minutes for agreeing on actions/next steps, owners and timeline) - however, it´s important to focus here - see next topic
the clusters / fields of expertise needed
  • does a legal advisor really need (want?) to be part of discussions about sprints in a tech project and vice versa? - which doesn´t mean you shouldn´t invite this person as optional attendee and let him/her participate if he/she wants to.
Based on the above example of an early stage having "sprints" (1-2x/week for tech, 1x/week for legal, tax and co, ... for the mentioned 5+5+5) with the advisors I would ask for a bi-weekly call/meeting for an hour with all parties involved. 
  • If things go well, maturity grows, everybody gets to know each other and speak the same language, you will very likely sort things in a shorter timeframe leaving space for discussions on a personal level, a talk about the future state or vision, ... anything that is not daily business but requires early focus in order to keep aligned to your business plan (expanding market, adding features, adding another subscription plan, targeting new customer segments,..) or simply also just to add some personal interaction and maintina the relationship - something that is very often forgotten. While starting a business is tough work and requires rational decisions many times, people tend to forget that everything is still about people.

Not sure if this an answer to your question at all - but this is what comes into my mind.

Ranjit Ghoshal Founder and Director at One Million Steps: Building a Healthier World for GivingĀ®

February 6th, 2016

Interesting thread that you have started

I am early stage, won three awards and first Welsh Start Up to be chosen for Google Launchpad

The project has faltered on the dev front as I am a non-tech founder building a platform

And there is so much to do and I had a loose board of advisors but lost half due to delays

Am building that board back up again and this time I am gonna formalise it more
Was just searching for some template letters and good freindly"rules of engagement" for responsibilities and just an explanation that they have showed their passion for the project and so if they want to be on the board, there must be helpers, advisors, ambassadors etc

I was also gonna go what Frank said, the sprints one week legal and structures etc

Any help would be appreciated too and I will post if I find anything

This seems a good starting point:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/topic/advisory-board-101

Thanks again

Lucas E Wall

February 8th, 2016

Thank you, Frank and Ranjit. This is very helpful and clarifying. 

I find the "clusters" and "sprints" extremely helpful, Frank. I'll use this for future advisory working relationships.