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This article was published on April 18, 2014

A guide to creating your startup advisory board

A guide to creating your startup advisory board
Alana Muller
Story by

Alana Muller

Alana Muller is the President at Kauffman FastTrac, an organization that equips aspiring and established entrepreneurs with the business ski Alana Muller is the President at Kauffman FastTrac, an organization that equips aspiring and established entrepreneurs with the business skills and insights, tools, resources, and networks to start and grow successful companies.

Alana Muller is the President at Kauffman FastTrac, an organization that equips entrepreneurs with the business skills and insights, tools, resources, and networks to start and grow. This post originally appeared on the blog.

The entrepreneurial journey is full of twists, turns, ups and downs. That’s why you need the support of trusted advisors.  Take these examples:

1. The Accidental Founder

Renee is in early stage mode. She has an “accidental business” – something that she happened upon as a result of her interest in helping people. To her surprise and delight, what started as a hobby, helping people decorate their homes, has garnered a great deal of attention in the neighborhood.

Little by little, friends turned to clients, clients began referring other clients and she started making money doing what she loves.  Now she wants to turn it into a full time gig – she’s even thinking of hiring an assistant. But, she’s not sure where to begin.  She needs advice.

2. The Guy Who Cried ‘Scale’

Barry’s business is in a time of transition (who’s isn’t, right?). He has built it up from little more than an idea two years ago to the high class challenge now of being caught between plenty of work and too much work. He has a lot of questions and concerns and sleepless nights.

His team is great – they are dedicated and trusting and committed to the success of the business, but they are not owners. The challenges he faces are uniquely his and, frankly, the decisions he makes about the business may impact the team in ways they might not choose on their own. He needs advice.

3. The Risk-Taker

Another friend, Alexander, has been with his company for nearly 30 years. He is running a small division of a much larger firm. The group operates with a great deal of autonomy and Alexander has comfort knowing he is backed by a stable organization.

But, things have changed. The big company has moved out of the sector that Alexander’s group covers.

So, last month, Alexander offered to buy the business from his employer. He is at once elated, freaked out, cautious, risk-loving and ready to take the next step. He needs advice.

In all three scenarios, the entrepreneurs were contemplating and/or experiencing seismic shifts in their careers and in their businesses. While the companies in question and the decisions made to impact the firms’ futures rest solely with the entrepreneurs themselves, those decisions could likely be made more clearly with the input of trusted third parties.

This may also be true for you.

Consider organizing an advisory board for yourself:

Step 1: Reflect on your network

The role of an advisory board is both to gather input from others and to collectively identify and ask the right questions in order to consistently operate with clarity of mission.

With that in mind, who do you have in your relationship base who has some business experience – especially in areas you do not? Seek people who care about you and will provide you with candid, direct input.

Organize a team of approximately five to seven individuals. You want enough in the group to have diversity of opinions, expertise and experience, but not so large as to have either too many opinions or too many schedules to coordinate.

Step 2: Plan ahead


Get started. Select a date, time and location to meet. You might borrow one of their conference rooms or go to a restaurant with a private room. Wherever it is, find a place that is quiet where you can all speak freely.

Be sure to give them plenty of advance notice. Set aside a good two to four hours for the discussion. Have an agenda and any other supporting documentation distributed to the team at least three to five days prior to the meeting. Your final agenda item can be to schedule a next meeting.

Step 3: Connect between meetings

If you have an urgent matter that comes up between meetings, no need to wait to get your advisors’ input.

You can reach out to them individually, as needed. Alternatively, you can organize a conference call or video meet up.  These types of interactions are usually 20 to 60 minutes in duration.

Step 4: Make your own judgment calls

You know your business better than anyone. Your advisors will weigh in based on their own knowledge set, experience and expertise. Plus, they care about you, your happiness and your success.

Ultimately, however, the decision-making rests in your camp. Take in their feedback, process it, use it to form your own opinion and then take action. Whatever determination you make, your advisors will respect and support you.

Final thoughts

Whether you are in startup mode, at the growth stage, or perhaps determining whether to innovate or decline, remember to surround yourself with a community of champions – supporters who will give you candid, direct, constructive input on what to do and where to take your business next.