There are four major sources that the entrepreneur and startup can utilize to identify advisory board candidates. Most experienced CEOs will tell you to begin close by, with who you know. Your personal network and your company are a great place to start.
You have been considering establishing an advisory board for your early seed level startup.
Collectively, you have researched the internet and read the reports; you have identified clear gaps in the experiences of your team and areas where advisors would enhance your ability to execute. Both you and the team you lead are committed to obtaining advisors to fill these gaps and support the growth you envision. Your team has even taken the time to prepare an advisory board search package. The next step in you project plan is to recruit the advisor. But where might you find them?
There are four major sources that the entrepreneur and startup can utilize to identify board candidates. Most experienced CEOs will tell you to begin close by, with who you know. Your personal network and your company are a great place to start. However, there are various other sources that should also be pursued including the startup community, trade associations and networking organizations, the established institutions in your community, state and region and the media. Let us consider each of these:
Personal Networks and Companies
Your personal network and your startup itself are probably some of your best sources for information leading to potential candidates. Your network begins with your team, including your Employees. They know the company; are advocates for the company, they know you and have broad networks of their own. The fact that they are with you at this early stage demonstrates a degree of mutual trust and confidence between you. Leverage this relationship to identify candidates.
You potentially have similar if not even stronger relationships with your Management Team and Existing Advisory Board and Board Members. These relationships possess similar if not stronger levels of trust and confidence and the networks of these stakeholders may be larger than those of employees.
Finally, your current Professional Advisors such as attorneys, bankers, accountants, consultants, insurance agents and wealth managers make strong sources of leads. They have strong connections throughout the community as they work with local business people daily. Leads and recommendations from advisors such as them are important as they already hold your trust.
The Startup Community
The existing startup community in your home town and region will include others who have or are currently addressing the same need. This includes Peer Startup CEOs, who may have previously identified great candidates they are not interested in because they don’t fill their need gaps or their company, and the Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors of these companies. Others from within the startup community who may be of help include Investors, such as angels, angel groups / networks / funds, VCs and Corporate VCs. Startup Accelerators and their related Events should also be option rich sources for leads.
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Trade Associations and Networking Organizations
Depending on your specific needs, the larger business infrastructure including:
- Industry Specific Associations / Networking Organizations
- Function Specific Associations / Networking Organizations
- Business Organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce
- Organizations for Retired Professionals, such as SCORE and
- Nonprofit / Philanthropic Organizations
will each be rich with experienced personnel and contacts that can provide leads for potential advisor sources. Many of the personnel you meet in such organizations are already very active in industry and their fields of interest and as volunteers are generous with their time and willing to help others.
Major Corporations are both a source of strong leads and a source of strong candidates, depending upon the corporate environment in your community and region and their match to your needs. Academia is another common area in which support can be obtained. From the members of the academic community at colleges and universities to those participating in MBA and executive programs at any given moment, academia is an area that should be rich in leads and candidates.
An area similar to the academic community that is often overlooked is the US National Laboratories, such as the Oak Ridge Regional Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN. These laboratories possess many personnel with attributes similar to what your will find in both industry and academia and this is an area that should not be overlooked.
Members of the media tend to be well networked and are assessable through various social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. Considering their roles, Authors, Media Contacts, and leaders in the Social Media Communities are either experts in certain fields themselves or are well connected with experts and have contacts that are both available and interested in supporting startups.
As you begin your search for advisor candidates, you will recognize a need for a process to connect with these candidates, vet them and finally recruit them to service on your board. I will hold these topics for discussion in a future article.