Give your business the best chances of success by establishing relationships with these three vital advisors.
By Kerrie MacPherson (Principal, Financial Services Office, Ernst & Young LLP and the North American EY Entrepreneurial Winning WomenTM Executive Sponsor)
Many entrepreneurs think they need to reach certain milestones before they’re ready for an advisory board. As you lead your company through early stages of growth, you should be thinking about establishing relationships with advisors who can help you to navigate your business to long-term success.
Numerous studies and our experience working with high-potential women entrepreneurs confirm that the larger and more strategic your network, the more profitable your business will be. “Overall, the men and women entrepreneurs who had larger and more diverse networks also tended to report greater levels of innovation, internationalization, and growth-expectations,” as reported in the Global Entrepreneurship Report.
While these relationships can be formal with appointed board members who are compensated or given equity, they can also be structured more informally, with advisors with whom you meet on an as-needed basis. Whichever the scenario, here are the kinds of competencies you need to have on your board to help guide your business.
The Finance Wizard
While you might be in business to solve a greater good, the reality is your company must be profitable in order to thrive. A seasoned financial professional can help make sure your business decisions are financially sound and/or open doors to financing solutions, with contributions stretching far beyond typical technical and financial capabilities.
Their perspective – especially if they have some experience with entrepreneurial ventures – will be critical to keeping your growth on the right path. Additionally, there seem to be a growing number of women from the financial sector who are looking for these types of opportunities, according to this article in CFO.
The HR Guru
Acquiring top talent is a challenge for every business and managing people effectively is an equally important success factor. A good human resources professional can advise you on many topics required to acquire and retain top talent, including competitive salaries, implementing effective HR policies and helping you establish the type of culture you want to set at your company.
They can also counsel you on leadership, and how to evolve your leadership style and focus as your company scales.
The Strategy Sage
One benefit of knowing entrepreneurs at various stages of growth is being able to call upon more experienced colleagues for advice and counsel. Look for professionals who understand your industry sector or have experience scaling businesses.
Often a good relationship with a serial entrepreneur can fill this role, but there are others. Asking someone to become a formal advisor in the early stage of your company’s growth might be overkill. You can gain many of the same benefits through lunches or phone calls every couple of months – something most can commit to.
And of course, don’t forget to be inclusive across gender, ethnicity, age, etc. Embracing the power of different points of view as you scale your company will strengthen it for the long term.
All successful relationships work when there is a give and take. Before asking for anyone’s help, it might be best to lead with offering something – a business connection, resource or simply the tab on a nice lunch.
That being said, you do want to pick people who will help to significantly grow your business, not necessarily the friends or acquaintances who are eager to help but who lack the experience your company needs. Be strategic with your first ask, as a well-known advisor is likely to entice others to help you, too.
All in all, expanding your network – beyond your immediate comfort zone – to include strategic counselors like the ones we’ve discussed is absolutely critical to your future success and ability to grow rapidly and efficiently.
Have you appointed advisors like these?
Photo credit: Hofpils via Shutterstock.