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Research Triangle Business Advisors

March 2015 Newsletter


We all have friends, some of them very close friends we have known for many years.  With our friends we socialize, have conversations about sex, politics and religion (the things we are not supposed to talk about). And, most important we help and support each other.  It’s no different in business, except we call these people advisers or “my network.”  This month I explore the need and value of having multiple advisers.




  Bob De Contreras





Every Entrepreneur Needs a Few Advisers

No matter how good you are, or how brilliant or disruptive your business strategy is, every entrepreneur needs a few good advisers. People (advisers) somewhere, have already been through what you are experiencing right now, and they have come through it successfully and are now armed with powerful insights.

In fact, the difference between an entrepreneur who merely shows promise and one who is already enjoying some success often comes down to advisers. Good advice can be just as crucial as funding in small to midsized companies.

Over the past 15 years I’ve asked hundreds of CEOs how may advisers they have. That is to say people they can call for advice or to ask a question or get a simple opinion. On average the answers were between 1 and 3 advisers.  At the same time I found that consultants had an average of 100 advisers. This should make the need obvious, yet seeking advisers out can be quite difficult and frustrating.

Who makes a good adviser?  What do they look like?

First, bear in mind that coaches or mentors who offer their time in return for compensation are not the same thing as advisers. While coaches, mentors and consultants are very helpful and important, true advisers are effective partly because they are only interested in helping – helping without compensation. It’s a two way street and more of a barter system. Some leaders refer to their advisers as their “network.”

The best adviser is someone who has experience and connections within your business area and stage of business maturity. For example, if your company is in, the architectural industry, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to court a senior executive at a national software development company. Focus on finding someone who has started a venture that’s similar to yours, and who understands the trials and tribulations of building and growing a business in that area.

Look for advisers who are thinking about your company in the background often – sending you articles, making relevant introductions, asking probing questions whenever you send them information.  It’s great to have an adviser that “pushes” you into situations and dialog, not just a person who responds when you “pull” for input.

In order to get the best benefit from your advisers, choose people who you trust and have confidence in.  To be effective you both need to be able to be candid with each other.  And, because you have blind spots (everyone does), you must be able to accept constructive criticism from your advisers.

When you do locate good advisers, they will serve as an example, a sounding board and, ultimately, a friend. Done well, advising is a two way street that is rewarding for both of you. It’s important to nurture the relationship, so find fun ways to meet regularly, to “network,” even without a business agenda.

How do you find an adviser?

Referral, referral, referral.  Ask people you know and trust to recommend people they know who fit your requirements.  Start with those coaches, mentors, and consultants you have used – they know a lot of people.  Then look to the people you have met at industry events and networking events you may attend. If you are a woman, attend women in business associations or clubs.  Join business associations and even volunteer to give business advice in these associations and local colleges and universities.  In all of these places you will meet the people who would make excellent advisers.

It is rarely a good idea to make an aggressive or formal request for an adviser upfront, like “Will you be my adviser?” These relationships blossom “on their own.” An adviser-advisee relationship takes time to grow, so start by asking for simple advice on one project or problem, and move on from there. Remember everyone loves to give advice, so it’s easy to get started.

Finally, some advisers get confused about their role. They’re not chairman of the board or a majority shareholder. It’s your company. You can solicit input, but in the end, you make the final decisions and are accountable for the results. But, don’t be afraid to ask for help.


Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | Greensboro | North Carolina
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