Startup founders and executives face an important decision when it comes to choosing a business advisor. You want to find someone who can offer valuable insights and guidance that can help take your fast-growing startup to the next level. 

There’s lots of advice on the internet, but sometimes it’s helpful to hear it from founders who have done it before. That’s why we asked tech founders, CEOs, and executives in the Powderkeg community for their best insights on how to choose a business advisor. We hope the tips below are helpful as you consider advisors for your startup or tech company.

What one tip should entrepreneurs keep in mind when seeking out a business advisor?

Here are the top tips from Powderkeg community members about how to choose a business advisor:

1. Seek out Advisors that don’t look like you.¬†

We can learn so much from others who haven’t had the same experiences as we have. Doing that has opened my eyes to things I would never have thought about otherwise and made me a much better entrepreneur.

– Leslie Bailey, CEO, Indy Maven + Maven Space

2. Welcome Advisors who will disagree with you. 

One of the most important things to have in a business advisor is someone that is not afraid to tell you the truth or disagree with you. One of the most impactful things business advisors can do is disagree with your preconceived ideas and make you either A. Defend your position, which, if you are able to do, only makes you more confident in your path. Or B. Make you realize there is a different, better, or otherwise alternative approach that you should be investigating.

– Grant Chapman, CEO at Glassboard

What one tip should entrepreneurs keep in mind when seeking out a business advisor?

These quotes are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Prioritize Experience Over Academic Credentials

Academic credentials are valuable shortcuts to judging someone’s capability. But when building a team to support and help them grow a company, experience trumps credentials every time.¬†Someone who’s built or worked at a company before will have encountered many of the immediate issues you’re likely to encounter. Their experience can help you avoid issues in the first place.¬†–¬†Brennan White,¬†Cortex¬†


2. Leverage Your Company’s Equity

The best business advisors are extremely busy. Be prepared to offer them 0.1 to 0.5 percent of your company’s equity, depending on how much time they will be investing in your company and how big of a rockstar they are. Then have that equity vest over time to keep the business advisor incentivized to keep on adding value to you and your company.¬†–¬†Doug Bend,¬†Bend Law Group, PC¬†


3. Know Your Own Style

Are you a person who responds to suggestions or a person who responds to straight talk? Your advisor should advise in a way that works for your own personal style. If you need straight talk and your advisor gives gentle suggestions, you will not get as much out of the relationship. If you need suggestions and nudges and your advisor “beats you down,” you will not benefit.¬†–¬†Alisha Navarro,¬†2¬†Hounds Design¬†


4. Aim for Someone With Questions, Not Answers

Rather than seeking someone who is going to fix your problems for you, look for someone who can ask deep, probing questions to help you reflect on your own situation. You want someone who can inspire you to solve your own problems by getting you to understand yourself better. Thinking you’ll find a sage with all the answers to your business’ issues is a fallacy.¬†–¬†Ross Beyeler,¬†Growth Spark¬†


5. Find Someone Willing to Help

The most important aspect of an advisor is how much time they’re willing to devote to helping you. It doesn’t do any good¬†to have a mentor who doesn’t answer emails or pick up the phone when you call. Before selecting an¬†advisor, make sure they’re willing and able to give you the availability you need.¬†–¬†Arian Radmand,¬†TurnGram¬†


6. Get Referrals

Go with business advisors who have been referred to you by others, because you can use their experience to shape your own expectations and potential results. This also provides a way to validate that the advisor has a proven track record and is credible for helping you.¬†–¬†Drew Hendricks,¬†Buttercup¬†


7. Make Sure Your Priorities Align

A business advisor model should mirror a mentor. Your priorities should align or be complementary. For example, if you have children and your business advisor is single, they may not factor certain amounts of time that necessarily must go to your family.¬†–¬†Matthew Capala,¬†Search Decoder¬†


8. Take Their Advice With a Grain of Salt

The best business advisors realize that their own experience doesn’t necessarily translate directly to new businesses. You’ll come across advisors who have had success, but who lack the flexibility to analyze each business as a unique situation. Listen to what they have to say, but don’t follow their advice slavishly. Think for yourself.¬†–¬†Vik Patel,¬†Future Hosting¬†


9. Find Someone Who Has Done What You Want to Do

Find a business advisor who already has successful experience doing what you want to do. Looking for an advisor who has closed a major round of funding? Make sure your coach has done so before hiring them. Looking for someone who has hired top-tier talent? Check that yours has done so beforehand. Experience is the best indicator. They might cost more, but you’ll get the results you want ‚Äď faster.¬†–¬†Brian David Crane,¬†Caller Smart Inc.¬†


10. Look for a True Advisor, Not a Parent

Advisors and mentors can be unbelievably beneficial to your long-term growth¬†and can assist you in overcoming challenges that you may run into on your entrepreneurial journey. However, be careful to seek out and adopt an advisor and not a parent. Be responsible for your own actions; seek guidance, but don’t rely on your advisor to hold your hand or make decisions for you.¬†–¬†Blair Thomas,¬†eMerchantBroker


11. Find Someone Who Really Cares

There are hundreds if not thousands of potential advisors for every business endeavor you can imagine. But the key to success with an advisor is finding someone who really cares about you and what you are trying to create.¬†If your advisor has a personal connection to you and your goals, they are much more likely to go above and beyond and deliver far more than the minimum.¬†–¬†Beth Doane,¬†Main & Rose¬†


12. Join a Network for Entrepreneurs

I have joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) to find business advisors. It is a very good professional group of entrepreneurs from various domains who provide business advice on various topics. It is like building a small board for your company. You are not tied to one advisor, and multiple people will give you input. You can join EO or any other similar group to get the advice to grow your business.¬†–¬†Piyush Jain,¬†SIMpalm¬†


13. Consider Their Reputation

What are people saying about them? Do they have good reviews and a good reputation? Do they have client testimonials and case studies to back up their claims? Also, what types of businesses have they helped in the past? Are any of them similar to yours?¬†–¬†Ismael Wrixen,¬†FE International¬†

14. Find Strengths That Counter Your Weaknesses

You want to find someone who understands your world, has been there and brings strength to the table where you may have a weakness. Your advisor should make a positive, noticeable impact on your business. Look for a wealth of experience that will mesh well with your team and mission.¬†–¬†Abhilash Patel,¬†¬†


15. Look Within Your Market

Just because you find a person with lots of business experience doesn’t mean they are the right advisor for¬†your business. Finding an advisor in your specific space will serve not only with practical information but potentially connections that could help you grow your market share, too. Experts who already know your space can bring more value than others who are not familiar with your product.¬†–¬†Diego Orjuela,¬†Cables & Sensors¬†


16. Match Your Advisor to the Stage of Your Company’s Growth

When looking for a business advisor, it is important to keep in mind your current company state and where you want it to be in the foreseeable future. Different advisors can be helpful at different stages of your business’ life. Those who are best for early growth companies might not work for established mid-market companies that want to go public.¬†–¬†Andrey Kudievskiy,¬†Distillery¬†


17. Find Your ‘Fairy Godparent’

Every super successful entrepreneur has a “fairy godparent” advisor in the early days of their success. Mark Zuckerberg had Peter Theil and Sean Parker. Travis Kalenick had Bill Gurley. This advisor is the person you simultaneously use as a sounding board for all of your major ideas, and also expect to help you fundraise, build sales, and execute on your growth strategy.¬†–¬†Paul Grossinger,¬†Gaingels¬†


How to Find a Startup Advisor

Business Advisor Near Me: Finding the Right Advisor for Your Startup

Choosing a business advisor can be a critical decision for your startup. A business advisor can provide guidance and expertise that can make all the difference in your success. Here are some tips on how to choose a business advisor that is right for you.

Types of Advisors for Startups: Understanding the Options

Business advisors can take on a variety of roles, depending on your specific needs as a startup founder or executive. Some common types of advisors for startups include strategic advisors, corporate advisory, financial advisors, and industry-specific advisors. Each type of advisor brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the table.

Startup Advisor Roles 

The role of a startup advisor can vary widely depending on their specific responsibilities and your business’s needs. Startup advisors might provide strategic guidance, offer expertise in specific areas of the business, analyze data and market trends, or develop and implement business plans and growth strategies. When considering a potential advisor, it’s important to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

How to Be a Good Startup Advisor

If you’re interested in becoming a startup advisor yourself, there are some key traits and skills that can help you succeed in this role. These might include strong communication and interpersonal skills, expertise in a specific industry or area of business, a collaborative approach to working with clients, and the ability to be flexible and adaptable in changing circumstances.

Business Advisor Job Description: What to Look For

When looking for a business advisor, it’s important to consider their experience and qualifications. Some factors to look for include relevant industry experience and expertise, a track record of success in working with startups or similar businesses, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and a network of contacts and connections in the industry. You might also want to ask about the advisor’s time commitment and availability, as well as any startup advisor agreement, startup advisor equity, or other requirements they may have.

Advisor Roles and Responsibilities: Understanding the Key Duties

The job description of a business advisor can vary greatly depending on their specific role and responsibilities. However, some general duties and expectations of a business advisor may include providing strategic guidance and support to help startups achieve their goals, offering expertise and advice on specific areas of the business, analyzing data and market trends to identify opportunities and potential risks, developing and implementing business plans and growth strategies, and advising on hiring and talent acquisition.

Strategic Advisor Job Description 

A strategic advisor is a type of business advisor that provides high-level guidance on long-term planning and goal setting. These advisors can help startups develop a clear vision for their future and create a roadmap for achieving their goals.

Corporate Advisory Job Description: Specializing in Finance and Business Issues

Corporate advisory is a type of business advisory that specializes in mergers, acquisitions, and other corporate finance issues. These advisors can help startups navigate complex financial transactions and make informed decisions about their business’s future.

Business Advisor Resume: Highlighting Your Experience and Expertise

If you’re a business advisor looking for new clients, having a strong business advisor resume can be critical. Your resume should highlight your relevant experience and expertise, as well as any specific skills or qualifications that set you apart from other advisors.

Look for Relevant Experience and Knowledge

When choosing a business advisor, it’s important to look for someone with relevant experience and knowledge in your industry. For example, if you run a tech startup, you may want to look for an advisor who has experience working in the tech industry and can offer guidance on topics like fundraising, product development, and market positioning.

Consider the Advisor’s Approach and Style

It’s important to find an advisor whose approach and style matches your needs and preferences. Some advisors may be more hands-on, while others may take a more hands-off approach. Some may have a more collaborative style, while others may be more directive. Think about what type of approach and style would work best for you and your business.

Assess the Time Commitment Required

Different types of advisors require different levels of time commitment. For example, some business coaches may meet with you on a weekly or monthly basis, while other types of advisors may only be needed for specific projects or tasks. Make sure you understand the time commitment required for each type of advisor and choose one that fits with your needs and schedule.

In conclusion, choosing a business advisor can be a crucial step in the success of your startup. By understanding the different types of advisors, their roles and responsibilities, and what to look for in an advisor, you can make an informed decision that can help take your business to the next level.

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a blog originally published on January 12, 2017.