I get asked for my advice on new startups alot and I like to give it. I have also been very fortunate and had great mentors, advisors and investors. So, I can say that the best relationships are ones where the entrepreneur works hard to manage his advisors. This generally includes;
- very regular updates – I like to do every 2 weeks. This gives enough time for substantive progress, but not too much time to forget what is going on. It also gets an early entrepreneur on the right cycle for future board meetings (monthly). It can also usually be aligned with a software sprint releases so you usually have some good product news to share. Stay on schedule and do them religiously.
- provide the context as backup – sometimes I can give advice with very little context of the exact specifics of the business, but if I think I need more detail, provide me links to supporting docs, your thinking, the choices you are weighting (pros/cons)… You can also provide a summary of other thoughts from the team or other advisors to help me know the overall context of the decision.
- ask for specific help – investors and advisors are usually busy and yet they really want to help. So make it easy for them to focus their time, effort and expertise on the things you really need as an entrepreneur and where they have specific expertise. Laying out where you need help in an email, an update or a meeting is really useful to direct an advisors focus. And, if applicable or when sending out to a larger group, be even more direct and ask a specific person to do a specific thing for you.
- choose the right venue – sometimes email works, sometimes a call, sometimes a 1:1 and in many cases you are better off to get the group together to discuss a more complex or important issue. Choose the right venue with a focus on the most efficient and timely way to get the input you need and no more.
- keep track of time – most of us advisors have a mental model of how much time we have to give to any one company. This varies depending on our level of engagement and/or the specific needs of the company at any one time. But, as the entrepreneur, keep this time in mind and try to balance it across advisors and across a timespan so we can stay fresh and alert.
- give credit and say thanks – it is always nice to give public credit to people who are helping. it shows that you are listening, appreciate help and it often spurs other advisors to raise their game and do more.