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12 Qualities to Look for in an Advisory Board Member

board of advisor startup

What’s one quality you should look for in a potential advisory board member? Why? 

Coaching Ability

“The best advisors don’t just tell you the answer. They know that they don’t know the answer, and the best way to help is to ask powerful questions that get a mentee to think differently and question his own assumptions. Ask questions — don’t give advice.”

ERICA DHAWAN
Erica Dhawan, LLC

A Passion for Something Other Than Making Money

“Increased revenue and profitability are byproducts of honesty, hard work, thought leadership and authentic passion around your trade. Find someone who’s not willing to sacrifice those most scalable attributes while they consult.”

ANDREW LOOS
Attack!

Excitement About Your Idea

“We want someone who is as excited about our idea as we are — because that’s what gets people motivated to help you beyond what’s necessary. “

BENISH SHAH
Before the Label

An Action-Oriented Personality

“The one quality we always look for when thinking through an advisory board is the ability for the person to translate his advice to action. When choosing between a big name and someone who actually greases the wheels and participates, I would always pick the latter. “

AZITA ARDAKANI
Love Social

Deep Industry Knowledge

“You want someone who has strong industry expertise that you can use for strategic planning. Their involvement in your industry will also mean a larger professional network that you can utilize. And their deep knowledge of your industry will help you to avoid making major mistakes.”

DAVID EHRENBERG
Early Growth Financial Services

Culture Fit

“Culture fit sounds like something that is talked about frequently during employee hiring, but not during board-building processes. If the advisors of the company don’t understand the personality, passion and purpose of the startup they’re helping, their advice is likely to miss the mark, and the entrepreneurs may end up taking it with a grain of salt. “

SHRADHA AGARWAL
ContextMedia

Alignment With Key Team Members

“One of my favorite ideas for adding advisors is matching them up with one of your executives/key team members. They often need them just as much as you do!”

DEREK FLANZRAICH
Greatist

Communication Skills

“Communication skills are essential. If he can’t communicate advice – or communicates it badly – it won’t help you succeed. All that knowledge is wasted.”

JORDAN GUERNSEY
Molding Box

Networking Skills

“The ability to network is crucial. People don’t realize how important it is to have a strategic advisor who can connect you with the right people and resources to help expand your company faster.”

AARON PITMAN
RA Domain Capital

Intelligence

“Intelligence is essential. Advisors should be wicked smart, with black-and-white common sense so anything can be debated (and never argued). “

ZIVER BIRG
ZIVELO

A Background That Adds to Your Board’s Diversity

“I stacked my advisory board with a cross-section of people: doctors, vice presidents, managers, retirees and average Joes. I also went with customers and non-customers who were people I respected and wanted advice from. Don’t forget that these people need to share a diverse background of experience to draw from if they’re going to be of assistance to your company.”

ROBBY HILL
HillSouth

Experience

“One quality you need from an advisor is experience in the trenches of business. If you have someone on your advisory board who’s been where you want to go and can help you avoid pitfalls, you’re saving yourself a lot of headaches. “

JOE BARTON
Barton Publishing

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Image credit: CC by Karen T2008

About the author: YEC

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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