Entrepreneurs: Know What You Don’t Know



Steve Blank covers the difference between a board of directors and an advisory board in “Don’t Give Away Your Board Seats.” I’d like to pick up where he left off. Now that you understand the importance of attracting advisers, how do you find them?

Take a look at a few successful companies you admire. Notice how the CEO has assembled a team of seasoned experts to guide the company’s growth? More than likely, your dream team is missing a few players. Your goal in building an advisory board is to understand which seasoned experts can provide guidance in deficient areas.

Determine which areas within your company you can proudly claim you do not know jack about. Once you are clear on your deficiencies, you can go to work attracting the skill sets you need.

Let’s look at a few key areas (most) startups will need to cover:

Marketing – A marketing strategy attracts your target audience to your product or service.

Branding – At a minimum you will need a logo, a website and social media presence.

Sales – It is important to have a sales strategy that outlines how you will get your target audience through the sales cycle.

PR – You will need a way to get your message in front of your target audience.

Finance – Finally, make sure you understand how money is flowing in and out of the company

You might look at the categories above and begin to cross out those that fall under DIY or outsource. Most startups can manage their PR, build a financial model and work with contractors to develop branding and marketing. The difficult part of building a company is sales. How do you scale the customer base you and your team have already begun to develop?

When you build your advisory board, select experts who can lessen your learning curve and make introductions to key customers and/or users.

In addition to those advisers who will help with your growth strategy, select experts within the field you are entering. For example, if you were building an educational technology company geared toward young children, it would be wise to reach out to experts in child development.

Nobody expects you to know everything. It is OK to admit that there are some areas you do not know jack about. A well-crafted advisory board can go a long way in mitigating the pain.

This post originally appeared on Atelier Advisors. Lili Balfour is the founder and CEO of the SoMa-based financial advisory firm, Atelier Advisors, creator of Lean Finance for Startups and Finance Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs.  All AlleyWatch readers are automatically eligible for a 50% discount on either of the courses using the preceding links.

Image credit: CC by CoCreatr

About the author: Lili Balfour

Lili Balfour is the founder and CEO of the SoMa-based financial advisory firm, Atelier Advisors, creator and host of Finance for Entrepreneurs, author of Master the Finance Game, and host of the Finance for Entrepreneurs broadcast on Spreecast.

After spending fifteen years in investment management and investment banking, she decided to develop a firm to cater to the specific needs of early-stage companies. At Atelier Advisors, Lili advises leading brands across industries: from tech to consumer goods. In the past, she has advised over 100 brands, including:

Bag, Borrow, or Steal, Visual IQ, Alpha Theory, Derivix, Practice Fusion, Peeled Snacks, Sustainable Minds, Firescope, Chix 6, Duchess Marden, Erin Fetherston, Eckart Tolle, and Stuart Skorman (founder of Reel.com, Elephant Pharmacy, Hungry Minds, and Clerk Dogs (sold to Netflix)).

While advising companies at Atelier Advisors, she observed a common theme – -brilliant founders avoided finance. She began writing about entrepreneurial finance to solve this problem.

As a native of Silicon Valley and a first generation Mexican American, Lili understands the importance of imparting wisdom learned in Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. Her goal is to teach the entire planet about entrepreneurial finance.

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