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Bursts of Color - Advice and Advisors

Founders choose to start their own companies, partly so that they can do whatever they want and not l
Bursts of Color - Advice and Advisors
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #17 • View online
Founders choose to start their own companies, partly so that they can do whatever they want and not listen to other people. That said, strong founders usually also cultivate a group of experienced advisors from whom they can gather a wide range of stories and ideas… and then cherry pick the parts they want.

Advice is easier to give than receive...
Advice is easier to give than receive...
Types of Advisors
Advisors come in many flavors, including:
  1. Independent Board Members
  2. Angel Investors
  3. Advisors who are Former Operators
  4. Professional Coaches
  5. Friends and Acquaintances
I usually recommend focusing on the first three of these. Note that co-founders, colleagues and lead VCs are also key sources of advice, but I don’t count them as “advisors” for this purpose because their primary role comes with its own incentives and biases.
Some Rules of Thumb for Working with Advisors
For most start-up founders, here are some suggested defaults:
  • Build a roster of 3-4 active advisors (this includes independent board members) with different profiles who commit to regular participation, usually in exchange for stock options.
  • Set a schedule to connect with each person at least monthly. Longer than monthly and the advisor loses context.
  • Keep a running list of topics for each advisor – your idea “parking lot” – so you can easily refer to it at your next session.
  • When making a tough decision, bounce it off all advisors at the same time. This is where you benefit from triangulation.
  • Reevaluate your advisor group and cadence every 6-12 months.
For More on This Topic
James Currier wrote A Founder’s Guide to Taking Advice that I found thoughtful. We don’t agree on everything, but hey, that’s the point of getting different views. Here’s a taste:
“So how to know good advisors from bad? The best advisors share a few key criteria. They usually are:
Successful former CEOs, founders and executives.
Other CEOs say, “They were the best advisor I had.”
Natural teachers who are good at explaining.
Humble.
Possess a superior network of other top people.
Have domain knowledge related to your business.
If you find yourself wondering whether the advisor is actually worth talking to, then you have your answer. They are not. Move on. Once you are sure you have a rockstar advisor— the kind with 10x ideas — compensate them generously. Their advice can make your company. You want their engagement.”
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Geoff Donaker

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