Yes, Your Startup Needs an Advisor
Here’s what makes an advisor different than an investor, consultant, or employee
The role of a startup advisor, or for that matter, any business advisor, is often misunderstood — even by those would-be advisors themselves.
I regularly write startup advice on product, growth, tech, company, and leadership. The posts work when they address a topic that the entrepreneur is dealing with right now. When that doesn’t happen, or when the entrepreneur needs to dive a little deeper, they might reach out with a question. Occasionally, they’ll offer coffee or beer or lunch for a meeting.
But once in a while, they want an ongoing advisor relationship. And about half the time, they have no idea what that means or how to get started. I’m not even talking about just the first-timers — I’m also talking about successful serial entrepreneurs.
Preferably, your advisors are people who have been through building the kind of company you want to build, several times, with both successes and failures.
In this post, I’ll give you an idea of what a startup advisor is and isn’t. I’m not going to quote to you from my startup advisor handbook because there isn’t one. This is just what I’ve learned advising startups over the last 15 years.
What makes a good advisor?
I’ll say the following as a lifelong entrepreneur: If you’re going to take a serious run at building a startup — and it doesn’t matter what kind of startup or industry or your level of experience — you need advisors. They’re not employees, they’re not mentors, they’re not investors, they’re not consultants, and they’re not coaches.
The main ingredient of a good advisor is not education or background or even level of success — it’s straight-up experience. Preferably, your advisors are people who have been through building the kind of company you want to build—several times—with both successes and failures. They’ve been hands-on and the better ones remain hands-on even as they advise you.