Surround Yourself

April 17, 2013 Randy Frisch

business_advisors

Day to day success lies in the ability of your team to execute. Whether it’s a marketing campaign, a product decision or how you handle a support request, only you and/or your team know best. But from time to time there can be great value in having a second perspective, an outsider’s view. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with great advisors.

I was very excited that this past week we added our third ‘official’ advisor at Uberflip: Lars Leckie.  We met Lars on a trip to San Fran through his role at Hummer Winblad, a venture capital fund focused on software investments. Later through our involvement in the C100 we got to know each other better and very quickly Lars became a great resource and cheerleader for our business.

You’ll note I used the term “official” advisor above. As of late I’ve realized that I actually rely on a variety of different people on a daily basis who don’t necessarily get that official advisor tag, but might as well in some cases. Here is a list of the types of people who I may call on daily for perspective (in no particular order):

#1 Professional Service Providers

business_professional

Granted they can charge you an arm and leg at times, but your accountants and lawyers should be viewed as more than the ones who write your terms of use and submit your financial statements. If you have to worry about an hourly rate every time you call one of these pros they are likely not a true advisor (or the right firm for that matter). We have developed a great relationship with our accounting firm such that they are meaningful connectors for us into our industry. We work with great people at PwC and given their focus in our sector they can be a great sounding board as we’re making big picture decisions for the business. My advice: choose these pros carefully. Don’t use your best friend because they’ll give you a good deal, rather align yourself with professional service advisors who live and breathe your daily debates in your space and can help make key connections.

#2 Industry Peeps

industry_advisors

This type should apply to everyone: marketing gurus, rockstar developers, super support crew, and number-crunching financers. If you’re part of any of the above or beyond, don’t be shy to ask others in your industry or role for advice! Believe it or not, as busy as people get they love helping others who they can relate to and believe in. In the last few weeks I’ve met with three early stage entrepreneurs to give some advice – I’m far from an expert or worthy of advisor status, but there’s no question I’ve gone through some of the challenges they are about to cross themselves. Meeting with them helps me just as much as I hope it helped them. It’s very easy to find people who have tackled your path with tools like LinkedIn and in person networking at Meet-ups and industry events. I have many of these types of advisors who I reach out to with random questions all the time, despite not giving them an ‘official’ advisor title.

#3 Blood Advisors

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No one knows you, your capabilities and your weaknesses better than your family and friends. No matter how old I get I never stop asking my dad for advice. Now no VC is going to rest easier because you’ve listed someone with the same last name as an advisor (and I’m not suggesting you do so), but don’t discount asking family and close friends for perspective. Whether it’s my wife, my parents, or close friends, you can gain a lot of advice from people you know. After all, these people often have the most vested in you so you’ll get straight advice as long as you can filter out the general pride they have in everything you do : )

#4 Your ‘Official’ Advisory Board

advisory_board

Your ‘official’ advisory board should be very carefully selected. There are a lot of great posts out there on how and who to select as an addition to your advisory board. Some basic tips I’ve been provided in making our selections include choosing people who can actually give you their time when you need it and making sure they understand your space.  In many cases you won’t know this out of the gate so take your time to build a relationship before you ask them to join. In the case of two of our advisors (Peter and now Lars) it was close to a year after we first met that we formalized the advisory board relationship.  Keep in mind these experts have the name and matching accomplishments that can help offset some of the uncertainty that can surround your lack of experience to VCs, customers, or your own team. But more than anything these should be people you trust and who you respect. Your official advisors will likely materialize from bucket #2 ‘Industry Peeps’, while some people simply will remain in that bucket – there’s nothing wrong with that.

Well surrounded

As our business continues to grow at an exciting pace it feels like each decision we make becomes more and more meaningful given the growing number of customers and team members at the office. We’re very fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with a small group of esteemed official advisors, and just as many unofficial advisors that we can call on to make sure we’re on track.

About the Author

As COO, Randy runs around daily between strategy, operations, sales and execution of Uberflip's awesomeness.

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