There I was, keeping my composure outwardly but completely dumbfounded on the inside. I had decided to take a meeting with someone I was referred to, which at the time seemed like perhaps a consolation prize for not getting what I really wanted.
But something perplexing was going on. This guy in front of me was telling me how excited he was about my company, the things he could offer up, and what our next steps should be. I mean, of course I believed in our company, but it makes sense because I founded it. Why was he so impressed? I thought. After all, he was the Chief of Staff of the entire NC Community College System. Before then he was CFO. And soon he would be a trustee for a major University. I was… a naive kid with a dream.
At the time, we hadn’t even closed our first college yet, but he saw the vision. I began to wonder if there was some ulterior motive I didn’t know about in the startup world! Turns out though, he was just an amazing advisor.
Over the years since, I’ve learned to judge all of our potential advisors from my experience with Kennon. One thing many teams do is rush out to find as many names as they can add. But what is more important is to have someone who believes enough in your vision to dedicate time and/or effort to the business outside of the compensation structure. Of course equity can be on the table, and in my opinion it should be if they are helping you meaningfully move the business forward.
But if compensation is the main driver for the relationship, you won’t get the type of benefits you are looking for, and more likely than not it will not be as fruitful of an experience for either party. So take the time to surround yourself with the right team, and once you know they are right for your organization, make sure you treat them like the rare, special people that they are!
Here are just a few things you can do to build relationships with your advisors:
- Remember important events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)
- Send random tokens of appreciation
- Be sure to include them on important decisions in the company (don’t just look at the relationship as a transaction. They are a part of your team)
- Any other ideas? Feel free to leave then below!