Updated: Nov 21
In our last post we talked about why advisors are important and why it is important to formalize your relationship with the advisors. This blog post will talk about the two types of advisors that founders of Emerging Technology Services companies will encounter, and how they can make the best of each category.
Subject Matter Experts (SME): The Gap fillers
The first set of advisors are subject matter experts brought in to help you with specific issues, e.g, sales or finances. These are sometimes called fractional services as well. They are a smaller commitment, often just a few hours per week. You can use them to add specific capabilities to your team and to upskill your team. The commitment is smaller so you can experiment with multiple people.
Unfortunately, this group wouldn’t know the ins and outs of your business. Thus, their advice will usually depend on how you present the situation to them. This puts more onus on you and your team. You as the leader must present the situations as comprehensively and objectively as possible. Using data instead of emotions, and sharing less of your own thoughts first to avoid creating a bias with the advisor is critical. Being more organized and preparing for any interactions with such advisors thoroughly is the key to success. A rule of thumb is to spend 3 hours preparing for a one hour interaction. To maximize value the job does not end at the interaction, you should preemptively block the time to debrief on what you learn and consume the feedback as well. Turning the advice into actional, doable tasks and adding them to your personal or team's backlog is how results can be driven from SME advice. Such engagements can be extremely fruitful when run correctly, but have a high chance of failure when the SME is given minimal, vague, input and expected to produce to the point outcomes.
Veteran Founder: The Eye openers
Another category of advisors is veteran founders. This is typically referring to the founder who was the CEO but can be any of the founders depending on how holistically they were involved in the business. These advisors are actually different from SMEs in that there is a blind spot that both SMEs have: they are typically working in specific areas even when they have an understanding of the overall business, their opinion is still going to be biased by their area of focus. Veteran Founders will have biases like others on what constitutes a good business but they’ll have a focus on the overall health of the business. A veteran founder will also know how the different parts come together. They’d know the problems you’re facing and will face because they would have been through the exact same situation.
Bringing in Veteran founders to guide you has its own challenges and requires a deliberate effort. Unfortunately, because they are extremely accomplished individuals, it is also the hardest to bring them in and it is a multi-step process (we will cover this in our next post). Once in, managing the engagement requires a lot of discipline. Not too different from SMEs, you as a founder have to think both like a student and a program manager. You need to stay disciplined and organized to prepare before every interaction and be ready to present what you need help with clearly and objectively. You need to understand their perspective and take notes diligently and then reserve more time at the end for yourself to consume the feedback and turn it into actionable insights.
In our next post in this series we discuss how to find the right adviser. At Vixul, one of our key goals is to connect you with both SMEs and Veteran founders. We simplify the process of finding and hiring for you and also provide management oversight to ensure the engagement is successful. We do this in time-boxed cohort-based methodology which further accelerates the time to value. You learn more, contact us through vixul.com.