Before embarking on the journey of becoming a small business owner, entrepreneurs must start by building a strong network of startup advisors and mentors.
Several aspects go into starting a new company, such as a robust business idea, a great team, and a ready customer base. But, inexperience often plagues first-time founders, regardless of the resources they have.
That’s where expert support comes in, and hiring a professional for guidance could be the key to long-term success.
Research shows that close to 20% of startups fail within the first year, while another 30% close shop within three years. At least 50% of new ventures will go out of business in five years for various reasons.
Getting the right support and advice could put your company in the latter 50% bracket that eventually makes it big. Or even among the 712 unicorns in the US in 2023.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
How Startup Advisors & Mentors Assist Founders
Relying on an expert mentor or advisor ensures that founders maximize the utilization of the resources available to them. That’s how they can ensure the best chance for sustainability and growth.
Advisors provide help with formulating and strategizing business plans, fundraising, and identifying the possible pitfalls of starting a new venture. You can also turn to them for industry-specific in-depth expertise that can propel your new company forward.
Whether assistance with product research and development, marketing approaches, and advertising techniques–you can bounce ideas off of the mentor before implementing them.
New founders navigating the complex business landscape will find their advice invaluable when making crucial decisions. These decisions can influence the ultimate outcome of the venture and its success and growth.
Not all advisors and mentors are alike. Some experts are intrinsically involved in every aspect of the company’s functioning. However, others may prefer to offer top-notch advice from the sidelines as and when needed.
Most importantly, business advisors connect you with potential investors in their network and assist in clinching funding deals. Also, rely on them for hiring expert teams to handle the startups’ financial, technical, business, human resources, marketing, and legal aspects.
How do you identify the right kind of advisor for your new venture? How would you go about building a strong network of startup advisors and mentors? Read ahead to know more.
Understanding the Difference Between Advisors and Mentors
Advisors are expert entities on your payroll who assist you through the challenges of starting and running a new business. Aside from offering practical solutions, they offer access to their network of professionals.
Entrepreneurs can choose to hire an individual advisor or an entire team of advisors. Compensation is in the form of equity or a monthly stipend, and you can expect hands-on assistance when needed. Typically the stake is anywhere from 0.25% to 1%.
Mentors, on the other hand, are people who have extensive experience with startups, having been there themselves at some point. Their interest in your success is not financial but only to see the business succeed.
Entrepreneurs who are not ready to hire full-time advisors can rely on mentors for informal training, advice, and support. Mentors are years ahead in their entrepreneurship journey and open to sharing their hard-won knowledge with newcomers on the scene. And that includes fundraising strategies.
Keep in mind that in fundraising, storytelling is everything. In this regard, for a winning pitch deck to help you here, take a look at the template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Building a Strong Network of Startup Advisors and Mentors–Getting Started
Finding the right mentor or advisor for your company need not be challenging. You can find the right professional through several channels out there. Here’s a quick look at your options.
Scout Around LinkedIn and Twitter
A great place to start the search is on professional platforms like LinkedIn, which is quickly emerging as an excellent business marketplace. LinkedIn is no longer just about posting resumes and looking for jobs. But it is now an effective networking tool for startup advisors and entrepreneurs.
At the time of writing this post, LI has more than 600 million members, each with a business card and details of the organization they represent. All you need to do is join one of the several online groups of professionals working in your industry. And find the right advisor to assist you.
Further, since the platform is business-centric, you are likely to come across people posting valuable tips and insights. Reading up on their success stories and updates can help you zero in on the right professional to hire.
Remember to approach them with a polite introduction and build a relationship before suggesting a collaboration.
Twitter is a lot more than just a social media platform but helps users stay updated with the latest news and information relevant to their industry. Look for accounts displaying tweets consistently with in-depth financial knowledge.
Read up on their comments on current events and tweets on new products and trending innovations by following and tracking community hashtags. You’ll stay in touch with the latest posts that will show up in your feed. That’s how you can find a professional who is a good fit for your line of work.
Attend Networking Events
Several virtual and in-person networking events are now organized where entrepreneurs can connect with advisors. Attending conferences, industry hubs, trade shows, speaking events, and volunteer meets can put you in contact with reputable professionals. Meetup or Eventbrite are two of the best-known events for startup founders you can attend.
Mingle with the best-known names in your space and introduce yourself. Start conversations about their experiences with startups and talk about what your company is all about. Don’t be hesitant about asking questions centered around their success stories.
At some time, you’ll attract the interest of advisors and mentors who have been in your shoes. On approaching them for advice, you’ll get valuable assistance. Not only will you expand your network, but also open up avenues for building strategic partnerships down the line.
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Check Out Accelerator and Incubator Programs
Startup owners signing up for accelerator and incubator programs automatically get access to their panel of advisors and mentors. This factor can give you an edge over the competition. Expect advice and guidance on aspects like legal regulations and laws your startup must comply with.
They will also train you on developing Intellectual Property (IP) and registering it through the right channels. Any assistance entrepreneurs need with marketing their products and managing finances is available.
You’ll obtain advice and access to networks of potential investors and also train in the nuances of creating a pitch deck. And present it to interested financiers on demo day.
Frequent Entrepreneur Meeting Spaces
Most cities with a thriving business landscape have hubs or spots where entrepreneurs often meet. Look for events at local libraries and community centers where founders congregate for exciting brainstorming sessions. And make the effort to attend.
Also, attend grand openings for new companies in your industry. Use the opportunity to connect with their advisors and pick their brains for the prospective talent you can add to your team.
Offer your business card, and make sure to get theirs in exchange for future communication. Of course, check with them beforehand if they’re open to hearing from you.
How to Approach and Hire Business Advisors
When building a strong network of startup advisors and mentors, adding a reputable professional adds credibility to the startup. Having a high-profile name on the company’s board of advisors impresses potential investors, which can be a huge positive when fundraising.
Approaching top-tier advisors can seem daunting, but a great way to get started is by writing an impressive email. At the same time, remember that well-known entities likely receive multiple such emails all the time. You’ll possibly end up in their spam folder.
Before emailing, see if you can connect with the advisors on a professional site. Follow them and build a connection by sharing, commenting, or offering feedback on their posts. When you send them a message, they’re more likely to respond if they know you.
Avoid creating email templates and sending them out without a personal touch. Respect their time by directly asking for assistance and if they can guide your company. Getting their phone numbers and contacting them could also work.
Once you open communication lines, be clear about the areas where you’ll need assistance. Be prepared to answer questions about your business model, competition, and targeted customer base.
If you can successfully pitch the viability of the business idea and objectives, you can be sure of acquiring the right assistance to get there.
Finding and retaining a great business advisor is one of the next steps when you have a great business idea. So, what are the other steps you must take? Check out this video to understand how to navigate the entrepreneurship journey.
Checking with Advisors for the Perfect Fit
When looking for and identifying the right advisors and mentors, focus on whether they operate in your industry. Next, you’ll identify their areas of expertise before requesting assistance.
Also, take the time to interact with the professional to assess their personality and whether you’re comfortable working with them. Ensure that you’re on the same page and understand one another.
Top-notch advisors and mentors work with multiple startups, so make sure they have the time and bandwidth to dedicate to your company. Rest assured that if they accept your offer, they’ll provide all the time, attention, and energy the company needs.
Most importantly, don’t forget to check for the expected remuneration and its form. Discuss terms like hourly, monthly, or equity, and outline the terms and conditions in a contract.
- Do you need financial assistance? You’ll get in touch with a financial advisor who’ll assist you with acquiring funding and financial projections. And managing the financial aspects of the company.
- Do you need legal assistance? You’ll get in touch with a legal advisor who’ll assist you with getting permits and licenses. They’ll help you understand local and federal regulations and secure any IP you create. Also, expect advice on drawing up contracts, hiring and managing human resources, and employment law.
- Do you need marketing assistance? You’ll get in touch with a marketing advisor who’ll assist you with identifying the right markets and acquiring customers at the minimum costs. Whether physical or digital marketing strategies or creating advertising media and materials–you can rely on them entirely.
- Do you need operational advisors? You’ll get in touch with an operation advisor who’ll assist you with the company’s daily running and processes. They’ll help you with streamlining operations and scaling the company efficiently.
Action Points to Remember!
Building a strong network of startup advisors and mentors can take some time and effort. But once you’ve identified the right professional to assist you, make the most of their expertise.
Follow their advice and maintain open lines of communication to provide regular updates on how the startup is progressing. Think of an advisor or mentor as the expert who can bridge the gap between your business goals and the resources you have available.
Expect attention to detail and laser-pointed focus on the finer nuances of running and scaling the startup. Ensuring long-term sustainability and growth has become challenging in the American rapidly-evolving commercial landscape.
You’ll need expert assistance to navigate the complexities and get access to networks of people to partner with. Whatever may be the startup’s needs, the business advisor can connect you with the right talent to retain. These may include accountants, lawyers, technical staff, and HR managers, to name an initial few.
Make sure to find someone who has the necessary experience and is in alignment with your company’s vision and mission.
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