One of the oldest arguments in the history of psychology is the Nature vs. Nurture debate.
However, what if I told you that the success of start-ups does not relate to the conflicting debate of nature vs nurture but in-fact start-ups need to nurture the nature.
To be successful as a start-up, you need to have a naturally innovative idea, one that disrupts your industry. However, even more importantly is how this idea is nurtured and evolved into a successful business.
The nurturing becomes an important part of the start-up life-cycle, and essentially the success of this revolves around the community that is built around the start-up; that being the management team, board of directors and last but not least advisors. Smart founders want the support of high-profile advisors who can offer PR, connections, clout and capital. However, the process of choosing the right advisor requires a strategic look at a mix of factors.
So, what should you look for in a Strategic Advisor?
1. An understanding of your space
When explaining your business, technology and vision to a prospective advisor, it is important that the advisor understands the particular ‘space’ your start-up will operate in. For example, if you’re developing a software for the Fintech industry you should find someone with previous experience in the Fintech industry having a technological and financial background. They will assist you considerably more than a legal advisor.
However, more importantly, the advisor should have an idea of the entrepreneurial ‘space’. He should have an understanding of the environment all entrepreneurs operate in, and what competitive edge is needed to succeed.
Understanding the start-up space comes with an acknowledgement that not everything is charged for. An advisor should be willing to veer off the topic being paid for when he/she notices a different area that requires some attention.
The philosophy is simple, build a relationship in the early stages and grow together into success.
Instead, it is important to find suitable advisors with experience in growing businesses. Credentials could include successfully founding and exiting companies & relevant work experience within your industry classification.
An effective adviser should be a problem solver. One who can advise you on what to say and do when the burden of leading and deciding matters for the entire company become taxing. They should be able to say; “We know what you’re going through. Now, here’s how we fix it”.
3. Personal Chemistry
Always remember, your advisors are going to be suggesting pathways you would not have thought of. They need to be professionals whom you respect enough to listen to and take seriously.
Grey hair and a flashy business card don’t necessarily equate to personal chemistry.
When investing in start-ups the term “follow your gut” is often mentioned. Do the same when selecting your advisors. The best advisors are ones whom you can build a 100% trusting and transparent relationship with. Are they truly interested in your vision and growth? Are they going to help you get to your destination?
Picture your success and imagine yourself being able to make the statement “I couldn’t have done it without them!”
4. Watch out for the Pretenders!
In today’s world, where everyone is seen to be an “expert” at something, it is becoming easier for start-ups to get fooled by little more than generic advisors (or even worse, total pretenders)!
Ask questions that test their apparent expertise within the start-up space and your industry space. How many start-ups have you helped? You can even ask for references. Start-ups are commonly cash-strapped, how as an advisor do you deal with that?