Our journey with advisors - How to make the best use of your time with advisors?
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
In our previous blog post in this series, we discussed what it takes to find a good advisor for an Emerging Technology Services (ETS) firm. Once you have an advisor, managing this relationship is key to get returns on the effort you put into hiring them. Keep in mind that the advisors are busy, and so are you. Face time with advisors, physical or virtual, is precious and should be used efficiently. We believe that it can be made more effective if the founders can take charge and actively manage the relationship.
Before we even get into the tactics, it is best to understand what we mean by managing this relationship. Management here includes four important tasks:
Proactively schedule the meetings:
Advisors are accomplished individuals and often very busy with either personal or professional gigs. Their calendars will be full if you try to get time at short notice. It is best to schedule well in advance. However, it is often intimidating to set up meetings with no agenda. Here are a few tips we have from our experience:
Build a cadence rather than schedule meetings individually: A better option is to build regular meetings on the calendar months in advance. It may seem too much but it works better for both sides. For example, set up a monthly meeting. Before the meeting, build the agenda. If there is no agenda, cancel the meeting. Nearly every advisor will thank you for canceling a meeting but no one will appreciate you asking for a last minute call.
Schedule 2x more meetings than you need and be up front about this strategy: Advisors’ calendars aren’t just full, they are also erratic and unpredictable. It is actually quite common for meetings to get canceled which leads to calendar-fu. One easy trick is to schedule more meetings that you expect to need. For example, if the goal is to meet once a month, set up a meeting twice a month. If the first one takes place, cancel the second one. If it gets canceled, you will have the second one to count on.
Prepare for the meetings:
Preparation is the key to maximizing the value of face time with your advisors. As a rule of thumb, an hour meeting requires at least an hour of preparation to be very successful. Just like we recommend creating recurring meetings at a fixed cadence, we recommend building a standing agenda. You can modify it as needed for every meeting but using a consistent agenda in fact improves efficiency of the meetings as the advisors know what to expect. At a high level, a standing agenda should include a birds-eye view of the business and a list of what you need help with. A few actionable tips from our experience:
Keep the slide templates consistent as it reduces the time it takes for the advisors to consume the information
In the birds eye view, share numbers, rather than text where possible to give a true and accurate picture of the business
Have concise explanations for strategic decisions, both for getting another pair of eyes or to solve dilemmas.
Check out our guide on how to prepare for your advisory call including a template with information you can use.
Debrief after the meetings:
Needless to say, you should be taking notes or have someone else who is taking notes during these meetings. However, it is common for the meeting to go great but nothing happens afterwards. It is often not a problem of action but a problem that comes from not doing a debrief.
After the meeting, it is time to crunch those notes and do a debrief. Distill the meeting down into what was accomplished from the goals you had set for the meeting, what news ideas came out, and what new data was added to your knowledge which will help you make the decisions.
Complete the debrief with a clear list of commitments and also plan for your next meeting. Jot the commitments down into your program management tool, set deadlines, and create reminders for yourself and your advisor.
Follow through and hold accountable:
Commitments are only useful if you complete what you said you will do and hold the advisor accountable for what they said they will do. A tool can help you with reminders, but it comes back to you to hold advisors accountable if they do not follow through.
An advisory relationship when run properly can be a flywheel effect. The repeated, recurring conversation becomes shorter and shorter and the meetings become more and more meaty. Making it a mix of both high level and low level topics allows you to learn what you do not know, and also learn more about what you thought you knew.
As Vixul, we provide some of the management layer mentioned above and help the founders manage the relationship with their Brain Trust representative. Brain Trust at Vixul is a set of designated Veteran founders, who have built ETS business, and can provide excellent actionable advice to ETS startups. To learn more about Vixul, contact us via vixul.com.