Where is the best place to find unofficial advisers?
I'm struggling to find good, unofficial advisers for my business. I am not looking to set up an official advisory board in exchange for equity, I just want to develop relationships with experienced professionals. Where should I be looking?
I have found that some of the business-related and generalist networking forums and platforms such as Mosaic Hub, Quora and LinkedIn are a great place to start due to the amazing efficiencies in terms of time, travel costs, and the wide reach to experts all over the world. If you ask a question or make a contact, and you receive a good response (instincts and intuition are helpful here), exchange telephone numbers with the warmest and seemingly most knowledgeable, and you will build a phalanx of unofficial but responsive advisers. I have found in excess of 50 "virtual" advisers by this method, and it has been wonderful for two of my companies so far. Go global and via internet.
Social networks and activities groups are probably the best "places" - e.g. I've met quite a few business folks through a poker meetup; through Argentine tango I've done quite a bit of business.
Lastly, industry groups such as professional associations where speakers share their expertise and volunteering for non-profits like Habit for Humanity may connect you with retired exec's or senior board members.
I believe in Guerrilla Marketing!
I would adopt a practice on of The Financial Service Industry--Centers-of-Influence-people recognized for ethics, integrity, etc . First in my LinkedIn Network and then referrals from respected colleagues.
Next, I would would just cast a large Multi-Cultural Diversity net of the types of people I would build relationships anyway.
Finally, I would take a look at those who were an "Un-Official" Board in terms of their mix collectively--Personalities, Industries, Expertise, etc--I call mine GAB--Global (Un-Official) Advisory Board--my fun nature.
Simple, cheap, & direct:
SCORE (Senior Core of Retired Executives), local governmental "development" agencies, and incubator services at local colleges.
Not so simple & direct:
Venture Capital groups/firms. Some VC groups will be more than happy to help considering they could be on the inside track to partnering on the business (Enlightened Self-interest.)
You got a lot of good advice already Jen. I saw one suggestion to build your network and thats a really good one. My add to that would be to ask your network to look at THEIR networks and give you some suggestions on people you should talk to. I think you need to help by defining where you think your weakness might be and thus identify where you are best assisted by the initial adviser and build out from there. Bringing in a marketing guy to help with a finance weakness will probably only aggravate you (I know sounds obvious). If I can help you out in any way, please let me know.
My suggestion is to join a CEO Roundtable. Vistige and Convene are two I am familiar with. They are not networking groups infact members are discouraged from doing business with each other. This helps promote the candid advice you are seeking.
Jen, There are networking events happening around the country that might provide you with the right advise. There are also groups like this and LinkedIn where professionals compare notes, if you don't mind sharing your questions with others. I am leaving a link to Networking after dark, which might help you find some face to face discussions and advise. Mine is in Dallas but I think they have these in other major cities. LinkedIn has groups for just about anything. Maybe you can get some advise there. I might be in agreement with Mel too if I knew exactly what kind of help you're looking for!
Internet is the way to go, right here on Mosaic, Linkedin, Facebook, and try other proffessional internet groups
Hi Jen. What's your definition of an unofficial advisor?
If I said, "I want an unofficial girlfriend, where do I find one?"
What does that sound like? What would you be thinking? Is it the same thing as Friends with Benefits? A random relationship with no commitment... How does that make you feel?
Do you want advice without accountability? Someone to empathize with you without asking you tough questions?
I believe Wayne said it best already.... I have nothing more to add.
As you see below there are plenty of people who are prepared to give you an opinion for free. So, use mosaicHUB! Otherwise try the specialised groups in Linkedin.
Join your professional association. There's plenty of business for everyone so joining your professional association can get you advice from the people who have already succeeded. They are generally very happy to help a newby. Actively attend meetings, meet the mentors, and ask if you can call to discuss challenges.
Read your professional journals, too.
Join your chamber of commerce.
You do not need to reinvent the wheel.
SCORE.org - retired professionals
Use Meetup to find people in your field of interest. You can get advice on line but one loses a lot in the translation and most online people are not going to be able to put you in the way of opportunities.Just make sure your advisors complement your skills; a group of people who think and act like you aren't really adding any dimension to your business. As far as compensation, no skin = no equity. You don't get equity for a few coffee meetings.
Find an executive coach. Find a mentor (someone mentioned SCORE). In any case it should be someone not emotionally or financially attached to your business.
In any case, as several have said, be prepared to pay for it. Free is good, but you always get what you pay for!
There are many business coaches that offer a group coaching model that may be what you are looking for. The cost is generally very low since you are essentially sharing the sessions with multiple people. The format I use is a group session that meets twice a month for 2 hours each time with a maximum of 6 members of non-competing businesses. We have a standard agenda process that allows each member time to describe their issues and the group brainstorms ideas and shares experiences to help each other. If the group is put together correctly and the coach does a good job facilitating, it is very powerful. Some groups stay together for years because the experience is so valuable to them. Depending on where you are, I may be able to recommend someone. Just let me know.
If you have a local SCORE group, they have an database of retired professionals that you could use as a sounding board. Should you be looking for an ongoing relationship with experienced people who can help you over the long term, then I would recommend a business coach. Coaches usually have a network of people in specific areas where you may need help. A business coach can help you with planning, strategy, execution of the plan and usually work on a fee basis. You would only need to purchase the services you require.
All the answers below are excellent.
However, basically you get what you pay for. If one is looking for free advice then there is no guarantee the advice is going to be effective (not saying it won't be of course - as evidence by the comments below), but if it turns out to be damaging you have no recourse as it is offered with no formal contract. I recall the old maxim, 'woudl you take advice for a medical condition from an ad in TV or from a medical practitioner?'
I assume you have done the homework of evaluating if you truly need an advisor and what is the agenda behind having one.
What I would suggest is to be careful with selecting your advisors. Who gives you recommendations on what to do with your idea and what actions to take to succeed should be evaluated in respect to their own experiences and interests.
Think of it this way. I am an advisor for some companies but what drives me to invest my time is sharing of passion for whatever the idea is. It is not good enough to just have a mentor or advisor with enough business experience but no real interest in YOUR business and your idea. I know of some situations where careless advice and latching on to the wrong mentor has cost people achieving the success they were looking for.
Also What is it that you can offer to them in exchange for their time in respect to your knowledge, your connections and how does that align with their interests, their passions, their contacts. This is and should be a two way street regardless if money or equity gets exchanged.
What you want is someone who LOVES to see you succeed because perhaps whatever you're working on inspires them, moves them, resonates with their values and belief system.
Time is precious for all, spend it wisely and surround yourself with idea loyalists and supporters who believe in YOU and the fact that you can execute successfully. Most advisors, investors and mentors help because they fall in love with your passion for whatever it is that you've set out to do. Only then, they know you will have enough "juice" to see it through.
The best place to find these people?
Start with your address book and ask your friends and business contacts, trusted source, if they know of anyone they can recommend. Ask on Linkedin or mosaichub WHO do people believe would have the most experience in whatever field you need. Don't bring up an advisor role just yet. Explore building a relationship with that person starting from a consultant level. Pay for 1 hr of their time. Prepare with concrete questions.
Also try your local SCORE chapter - many mentors there are retired, ready to help and well connected in your area. There's also Chamber of Commerce where the chamber President usually knows everyone in the area.
Assume everyone is too busy, too frantic in their own lives to simply invest their time to advise others and approach your priorities from that perspective as well, fully respecting every second of their time.
Another solid resource for business insight would be your local SCORE group/organization. This is a group of retired professionals, many of whom are still very active in their business community and are joined together for the purpose of providing gratis business advice and leadership. To find a local chapter, follow this: www.score.org/chapters-map.