Mar 2 2008

Advisory Boards

Advisory Boards

This is a topic that’s come up a fair amount lately here. Advisory Boards can be great sources of help for entrepreneurs. They can also be great things to participate in. Here are a handful of quick tips for both sides of the equation.

If you are building an advisory board:

– Figure out what kind of Advisory Board you want to build — is it one that functions as a group, or is it one that’s a collection of individual advisers, and a Board in name only?

– Clarify the mission, role, and expected time required from advisers on paper, both for yourself and for people you ask

– Be prepared to pay for people’s time somehow (see below)

– Figure out the types of people you want on your Advisory Board up front, as well as a couple candidates for each “slot.” For example, you may want one financial adviser, one industry adviser, one seasoned CEO to act as a mentor or coach, and one technical adviser

– Aim high. Ask the absolute best person you can get introduced to for each slot. People will be flattered to be asked. Many will say yes. The worst they will do is say no and refer you to others who might be similarly helpful (if you ask for it)

– Work your Advisory Board up to the expectation you set for them.  Make sure you include them enough in company communications and documents so they are up to speed and can be helpful when you need them.  Treat them as much like a Board of Directors as you can

If you are asked to serve on an advisory board:

– Make sure you are interested in the subject matter of the company, or

– That you have a good reason to want to spend time with the entrepreneur or the other Advisory Board members for other reasons, and

– Don’t be afraid to say no if these conditions aren’t met (it’s your time, no reason to be too altruistic)

– Clarify up front the time commitment

– Try to get some form of compensation for your effort, whether a modest option grant (size totally depends on the time commitment), or the ability to invest in the company

– Be sure to let your employer know. Ask for permission if the business you’re advising is at all related to your company, and get the permission in writing for your HR file

– Follow through on your commitment to the entrepreneur, and resign from the Advisory Board if you can’t

Those are some initial thoughts — any others out there?