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.
So you’ve considered establishing an advisory board for your startup. Collectively, you probably have researched, read reports, identified clear gaps in your team and now need advice for your business. Advisors can enhance your ability to execute in multiple areas. By now, both you and the team should be committed to obtaining advisors to support the growth you envision. Maybe the team has even prepared an advisory board search package. The next step, how do you find them?
There are four major sources 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:
- The startup community
- Trade associations and networking organizations
- Established institutions in your community, state, and region
- Finally, the media.
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 stronger relationships with your Management Team and Existing Board Members. These relationships possess similar 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 these advisors are important as they already hold your trust.
The Startup Community
The existing startup community in your region will have others who have the same needs as yourself. This includes Peer Startup CEOs who may have previously identified great advisory board candidates and the Advisory Boards and Boards of Directors of these companies. Others within the startup community include Investors, such as angels, angel groups/ networks/funds, VCs and Corporate VCs. Finally, Startup Accelerators are a rich source of leads as they provide a diverse network.
Trade Associations and Networking Organizations
Depending on your needs, the larger business infrastructure will be rich with experienced personnel and contacts that can provide leads for potential advisor sources. This includes:
- Industry Specific / Networking Organizations
- Function Specific / Networking Organizations
- Business Organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce
- Organizations for Retired Professionals, such as SCORE
- & Nonprofit / Philanthropic Organizations
Many of the personnel you meet here are already very active in the industry, and volunteers are generous with their time and help.
Major Corporations are both a source of strong leads and a source of strong candidates. This can vary depending on the corporate environment in your community and region. Academia is another common area to find support. From members of the academic community (colleges and universities) to those participating in MBA and executive programs, academia is an area that should be rich in candidates.
An area similar to the academic community that is often overlooked is the US National Laboratories. (An example is the Oak Ridge Regional Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN.) These laboratories possess much personnel with capabilities equivalent to those in industry and academia, 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, Influencers, Authors, and Media Contacts are either experts in certain fields themselves or are well connected with experts and have an expansive list of contacts.