Before you start
- Think about what you need advice with; be broad and expect to have multiple advisors for different aspects of your business.
- If you’re not a ‘networker’ already, find someone that is. The more people you can tap into, the better.
Let’s get started
There’s no substitute for experience
When looking for advisors you can trust, qualifications provide some credibility but are absolutely no substitute for experience.
If an advisor has had first-hand experience of a business scenario (e.g. starting a new business from scratch, negotiating big contracts, developing a novel mobile app, big systems integration, etc.) they will also have experience of doing most things associated with that scenario:
- Working closely with colleagues, clients or suppliers.
- Attending meetings.
- Coming-up with a strategy or plan.
- Negotiating both internally or externally.
- Designing, developing, testing, implementing a technical solution.
- Creating or managing a budget.
- Devising an operational workflow.
- Handling tricky stakeholders.
- Dealing with uncertainty.
This experience can be something your business benefits from too. Trusted advisors can impart this lengthy and challenging experience with you in a matter of minutes.
Recommendations are invaluable
If you have a good network of contacts that you nurture occasionally, dipping into that pool for a trusted advisor or two should be straight-forward.
Saying that, many people often hold-back on sharing the extent of their experience. So, even if you do have a good network, you probably don’t really know everything about everyone.
This is where recommendations come in handy. Ask your network of contacts for recommendations of trusted advisors, and you’ll get a much better response. You can then have a brief call to sound out those that look like a good match ‘on paper’.
How many advisors should you have?
It really depends on the nature of the advice you need, the type of character you are, and the usefulness of the trusted advisors you have already.
We recommend aiming for approx 3 to start with, spanning different areas of your business, if possible. You can add to that as the need arises.
Keep communication regular
Once you have an advisor or two, make sure you feed the relationship to keep it going. This doesn’t have to be every week. Our recommendation here would be to pre-arrange a schedule for updates and discussions.
For pressing and running issues, you might want to meet with your trusted advisor every week. This gives you time to continue to work the issue yourself, while having the backup of a regular checkpoint with an expert.
For less pressing issues, you could drop to once every 8-10 weeks.
It’s unlikely that you’d need to bring all your advisors together at the same time. However, in the case of NED’s (Non-Executive Directors) you would typically use a combination of individual meetings and Board meetings, where all are expected to attend.
How to get the best from your advisor
The time with your advisor is previous. In reality, your advisor could be advising other business leaders too. Make sure your meetings are well run by being prepared. Here are some useful tips:
- Make sure each advice session is in the diary – no agenda should really be necessary, as the topic of discussion should be guided by you each session.
- Use either face-to-face or a method of communication that is reliable for both you and your advisor.
- Start each meeting by providing a clear view of what you’d like to cover in the time you have available.
- In your discussion, your advisor usually benefits from a brief update on previous topics discussed, so they can see how you handled using their advice and the situation it was intended for.
- Take each topic in-turn, present some background on the issue and be prepared to answer the advisor’s clarification questions.
- Have your question to the advisor ready too – know exactly what you want to get from them.
- Given the advisor time to respond, listen carefully to their advice and take notes so you don’t forget what’s been shared. Be open-minded – you might not always like what you hear.
- Close the meeting on-time by arranging the next meeting that you can both make. That’s not to say the meeting won’t move, but this at least gets some commitment for the next contact point.
Now you have some insight into how to get the best out of a trusted advisor, you should review you vision statement to make sure it’s ready to share with them.