Sunday, 25 January 2015

How to find the right advisor for your business

By Bridie Walsh and Trang Du

There is a slew of advisors, coaches and mentors out there. But how do you find the right one for your business?

Whatever you do, consider this this crucial question carefully because who you choose as your advisor could make or break your business.

Good or bad advice will come down to the type of people you surround yourself with, so Two Square Pegs have compiled some tips to help you find the right advisor for your business.

Think through your needs

You will have certain business needs, but not necessarily the budget to hire. Not at the early stages at least. So this is another incentive to seek an advisor.
Evaluate what your business needs are and then search for advisors that have the skillsets, knowledge and networks that can meet them.

Evaluation involves looking at the traits and skillsets of your existing team, and mapping the gaps. You can even create a job description for your ideal advisor.
Review your business plan. Perhaps there are new markets you want to break into, but don’t have the knowledge in that area or industry. This will become another clue as to the type of person you will want to connect with.

Trusted counsellors

Of course, the saying, “you don’t know, what you don’t know” always applies.
Sometimes you simply need wiser counsel; someone who has industry or business experience and can take a helicopter view of your company – because they have blazed a trail before you. They will be able to point out the problems you have and why, and the solutions are probably not what you first thought.

Top advisors for start-ups have these three qualities

1.     An ability to be hands on when needed
a.     Let’s face it, starting up is tough. Bootstrapping your way to growth and positive cashflow in the beginning sometimes means that advisors need to be willing to roll up their sleeves and do some of the grunt work too.

2.     Willing to guide you through difficult problems and challenges
a.     The best advisors are natural problem solvers who will make you think about a problem in a new way. It can help you find a way out.
b.     In any challenge your business may face, one idea or solution is rarely the silver bullet that turns things around. It is usually a process – a series of solutions and creative approaches – that keeps your business humming. The best advisors support you through a process that will drive your business success.

3.     Strong networks
a.     Not least of all, advisors have strong networks connected to a range of business support, know-how, people and associations. No man, nor one business, is an island. We all thrive in a community of people. Who your advisor knows could be the next critical customer that launches a thousand, a new marketing opportunity, or potential collaborator.

Reaching out

Once you know what you need, or at least think you do, start networking.
Tell people in your circles that you are looking for an advisor. Describe your business needs and the skills in a person you are looking for and let your contacts do the talking.

Reach out to organisations like Two Square Pegs, who create channels to meet and match with the right advisors. Many local councils have small business programs and mentoring, such as Boroondara Council, that can be worthwhile connections.

Join meetup groups in your business area of interest. In Victoria, we recommend Startup Victoria and Silicon Beach for starting out. Search for meetups in your state.

Importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. Let people in your everyday networks know you are searching for the right advice and would be happy to meet for a coffee.
Invest and recruit advisors who can inform and grow your business, it could just be the best business decision you make this year.

Two Square Pegs is developing a white paper on “finding the right advisor” that will be released early in 2015.


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