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DIY Personal Advisory Board Part One: Self-Assessment

Peak... by Thomas Leuthard

This article is part of a series on the Springboard process and the first half of a two-part post. Here is Part Two.

At Springboard, we run an 8-week individualized coaching program for the companies accepted for our accelerator.

We identify each company's needs through a two-part assessment process, which informs not just how we craft the coaching teams that work with them over those eight weeks but also which companies we select in the first place.

We call these teams Personal Advisory Boards, because they don't just advise on the investor pitch. They become trusted colleagues who always have your back and seek out ways to make connections and help your business grow.

Everyone should have a Personal Advisory Board, not just the entrepreneurs that go through Springboard. So here's how we do it and how you can create your own.

Part One of our assessment process is digital. We have an application to learn the basics of each company (similar to an executive summary) which we share with a group of our advisors, entrepreneurs, and investors for feedback. We make sure that the people providing input are qualified to review that company (whether it's the industry they work in, the stage of company they have built or invest in, or otherwise).

Part Two of our assessment process is in-person. We host an interview session where each company delivers a 10-minute pitch before a group of experts. We go a little deeper on content (to get answers to questions raised in Part One) but we also get a sense of the entrepreneur's personality and passion. We can assess whether they will be coachable.

For our process at Springboard, we are direct and transparent about the results of our assessment and share it with the entrepreneurs whether or not they are selected. The companies that are selected will then meet each other and participate in a highly interactive two-day program called Bootcamp where we test our iniital assessment of the company and learn even more about the specific areas where they each need support.

It can be invaluable to have a third party provide you with this kind of insight about your business. After all, you don't know what you don't know.

What I Don't Know Graph

Source: jangosteve.com (@jangosteve) via Sean Kim (@sseankim)

How to Conduct Your Own Self-Assessment

So if you're interested in conducting a DIY assessment process (because you're not a fit for our accelerator or because we aren't currently accepting applications) here's how you might do it:

1. Prepare a short list of target advisors and investors you will ask to provide feedback on your business. Target individuals you already know or have met, or ones in your industry to whom you can get an introduction.

2. Send them an email with a link to download your executive summary and slide deck (use DocSend to get insights on how your information is being viewed), and mention that you are trying to get honest, direct feedback about your business and how you are presenting the opportunity to investors.

3. If they agree to review your information, send them a link to a Google Form with four questions and a brief description of why you are seeking feedback so they have the context to evaluate your materials (e.g. you want to improve the pitch, hone the business strategy, build a team of advisors):

  1. [Rating 1-5] How does this compare to other pitches you've seen recently? (I can take honest feedback well)
  2. [Text Box] General Comments or Concerns
  3. [Text Box] Is there anyone in your network you would recommend I speak with?
  4. [Yes/No] I am preparing a summary of the feedback I receive through this process. May I share that with you for a second look?

4. Team up with another entrepreneur to help compile your results into a one-page summary (a third party perspective is important here), and share it with those who agreed they would review it.

5. Work with your partner to translate the summary feedback into actionable insights. Your goal is to identify 2-3 areas of the business where you feel weak and need the greatest support. Things like:

  • Articulating a crystal-clear value proposition
  • Attracting talent to scale
  • Setting up a scalable technology infrastructure
  • Forming a strong go-to-market strategy (shift from consumer to enterprise)
  • Presenting (and preparing!) financial projections
  • Cutting down the pitch to 10-12 slides (hint: use an appendix)

In the next post, I'll share how we use these core needs to identify and recruit a team of coaches, and how you can DIY to form your own Personal Advisory Board.