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?
Mosaic Hub is a great source actually. There are a lot of profiles of people on here that can advise you in many aspects of the business.
Elance is also a good source. If you need help or advise for your business, I would be willing to help out. I have a ton of experience in business analysis, business plan writing and have a company that deals directly with business development, management and analysis.
If you need help, let me know and we can work something out. Check out my profile for info.
We would recommend local, regional business and marketing consultants who can work by the hour or a project. Look at small retainers. Look at the Small Business Administration and retired executives who want to give back. In all three areas that is what Londre Marketing Consultants have done. A couple of additional ideas: you could find good professors who have real work experience. Those are adjunct, or senior lecturers Watch out for professors who have limited "real work" experience. They may be good writers of papers but you need real decision-making and vision. Look for resources that can help you.
I think you really get what you pay for.
As a business focused CPA, I end up providing them my experience and access to my network. If all you are getting from your CPA is a tax return, look elsewhere and get the real value.
As a business coach, I am concerned with the description of "unofficial" advisers. Is that just another way of saying "unpaid", or that you just want advice and mentoring, and not anyone or people holding you accountable for doing things you know you need to be doing? Just saying...
You are absolutely doing the right thing in seeking advisers, as that is a key to successful business ownership. Virtually none of us know everything we need to know to be successful, so the trick is to find those who know the things we don't. Also add ... "someone from outside the business and family."
Advisory boards really work, as long as they are the type of people who are not only skilled and experienced, but that also are willing to tell you things you don't want to hear. I agree with others that advisory boards do not need equity positions; however, they should be compensated, but I know of several where it is just like an unpaid mentors meeting. I urge you though to have consistent regular meetings, with an agenda, and either be prepared to hear the stuff that will make you mad ... or don't waste your time putting something like that together.
While there are many companies like ours that you can hire on a fractional or interim basis, there are also some free resources. If you have not, a nice place to start is often: http://www.score.org/
No cost, experienced executives and great help according to many people that have used them in Collin County Texas.
Advisory boards do not require equity but in my opinion they should be compensated some how. I always suggest a monthly retainer.
The people you use should either be experts at what you are trying to achieve or people have some interest in your segment of business. The people that have used me as an advisor are usually in the franchising field or want to be some day and want direction on how to get there.
Remember that free advice is often worth what you paid for it.
Check out SCORE - the Senior Core of Retired Executives
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.
I would recommend connecting with a local area incubator. They have tons of resources and people, and you can often associate yourself to them for free (you do not get offices etc, but you can get free advice).
Then you can participate in networking events, meet other companies and attend seminars where you will not only learn but meet potential candidates.
The ETC in Baltimore had a great team when my company was there. Their team have extensive management and operations experience, with resources to help with marketing and research.
Any good advisor expects something for their advice, and so do you. It doesn't have to be equity. I am a member of several Advisory Boards where I get a quarterly fee for my advice. There are many sources of Advisory Board Members - Accountants, Lawyers, Professors, Chamber of Commerce Members, etc.
most government agencies have mentorship programs, but is it not a bit unfair that you wish to create a business for gain yet wish to use other peoples skills and know how to further your ambitions without consideration of renumeration?
the question you should be asking is why are typical advsirs ignoring my requests
there are hundreds of web sites like this one even you can ask questions and get sound answers so again the question is what is your motif and that is probably why you are battling
A suggestion I would have is make sure you have your vision clearly defined, and a strategic plan tied to your vision. This strategic plan should help guide you in what professional resources you need to develop relationships with those experienced professionals. I would have a broad perspective to help meet changing market dynamics.
You are very wise in looking for advisers, for that is the key to successful business growth. I would suggest 3 options. One hire a good executive business coach. They can give you more clarity, help you support specific actions and hold you accountable so momentum is created. Executive coaches are really well networked and supply a network of individuals based upon your strategic plan. They can also help in developing your leadership and specifically in creating a dynamic culture. Most companies try to meet change through processes, systems or restructuring. Second Option would be once you have determined what expertise you require I would connect with those professional organizations. The third would be join a professional executive network organization, who can recommend some good individuals for you.
Have you been developing your professional network? I've mentioned this several times within the MosaicHUB forum. When starting a business, looking for clients, searching for assistance/guidance, it is absolutely essential to reach out to one's professional network. If you don't have one, start building it!
How? Attend local business networking events and identify a group (or groups) who "speak your language." Then, get to know individual members by learning about THEIR business and how you can assist one another whether through referrals, bartering services, or to act as one another's accountability coach. Through them, you should continue to meet other like-minded professionals. With time, you'll find the "unofficial" advice you're seeking.
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.
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.
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?'
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.
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.
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!