Creating an Advisory Board

Advisory boards can be an invaluable source of insight. Think of an advisory board as a collection of mentors that can provide individual expertise, provide you a sounding board for ideas, give you advice, introduce you to valuable contacts, and tell you when you’re potentially making a mistake.
Setting expectations serves to align an advisor’s expertise, time and interest with your needs. Here are a few tips:

“Keep in mind, an advisory board doesn’t have any official authority.” 

  • Set Expectations. Spelling out the expectations and responsibilities of advisors is best done ahead of time.
  • Establish a Process for Efficiency. Keep in mind that advisors are usually helping you “on the side” of their day job and also not being compensated. In light of that, it is important that you set a process that maximizes what you can obtain from these advisors and makes the best use of their time. For example, set up a weekly call for an hour in which all advisors join to talk through what everyone is working on.
  • Establish Their Time Commitment. Be clear not only about your process for interacting with advisors, but exactly what time commitment they are willing to make. This helps align their activity to the time they have made available to you.
  • Focus on Their Area of Expertise. Align activity and deliverables for each advisor to their area of expertise.
  • Understand How They Like to Operate. Some questions that can help you flush this out:
    • What are their business strengths/where do they feel they can add the most value?
    • How much experience do they have with…
    • Where do they see your startup going?
    • If they could change one thing about your revenue model, pricing strategy, marketing plan, company structure, what would it be? (
    • What’s their preferred communication style? (Does it conflict with how you like to communicate?)
    • Have they ever worked with an advisor, and if so, what did they like/dislike about the experience?
    • Have they advised anyone before?
    • Why are they interested in your company?
  • Sign an Advisor Agreement. Create a contract. This document will help you keep your advisors accountable. After all parties have reviewed and signed the contract, you’ll have officially created your startup advisory board.

Advisors don’t manage themselves and these simple steps help to keep everyone’s expectations and deliverables aligned.

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