This article is part of a series on the Springboard process and the second half of a two-part post. Here is Part One.
When we look to craft the coaching teams for the companies in our Springboard accelerator - Personal Advisory Boards - we first conduct an assessment to better understand the unique needs of each company, so that we can recruit a team of advisors that has exactly the expertise and connections to help that company get to the next level.
At Springboard, a focal point for the coaching process is the investor pitch because (1) all of the companies we select are seeking growth capital, and (2) the investor pitch provides enough of an overview of the business for each advisor to identify the areas where they can most add value.
Recruiting Your Team of Advisors
In the first part of this article, I talked about how we conduct an assessment of the companies that apply for Springboard and how you can conduct your own self-assessment. The next step is to recruit your team of advisors.
When we build our teams at Springboard, we look for 5-8 individuals in a variety of functional roles:
- Investor (VC and/or angel)
- Corporate executive from the industry (business development and/or venture arm)
- Tech expert
- Financial expert
- Wild card (e.g. regulatory expert, enterprise sales expert, etc. to match your core needs)
Finding advisors that can provide many different perspectives is critical because the most important thing about recruiting your Personal Advisory Board is to seek diversity of thought.
Your potential advisors will want to know what kind of time commitment will be involved and for how long. Here's what your email should include:
- What you are asking for and why
- Time commitment
- Overview of expectations and format for the process
- Two-lines about your company and a link to your executive summary and/or slide deck
- (When they commit, make sure you get their phone number and preferred email if you don't already have it)
Working with Your Team of Advisors
Most entrepreneurs are eager to connect with the investors on their team. Remember that they, along with everyone on the team, have their own motivations for helping you.
- Investors want early access to the Next Big Thing, so they will encourage you to think big.
- Lawyers and service providers are trying to earn your trust and win you as a client.
- Entrepreneurs are going to steer you away from the big mistakes they made (potentially right into other mistakes).
Ultimately you need to be a filter, not a sponge.
But you need more than the right approach. You need a process. Here's a template for working with them that you can cater to your own needs:
1. Schedule a group call to kick-off the advisory process and run through your investor deck
A group call is important because it allows each of your advisors better understand the unique perspective they bring to the table relative to the rest of your advisors. Look 2-3 weeks out on schedules and use Doodle to find a time that works for most (if not all) of your team.
2. Circulate slides 24 hours in advance of the call as well as contact info for the team
Some of your coaches may not be in front of a computer during the call, so send it to them in advance so they can download it for offline viewing or print a copy. Give them a heads up about who else will be on the call so that the intro process on the call can move along faster. Part of the selfish reason your advisors are involved is to build relationships with the other experts on the team.
3. Use Speek to run the call
With Speek, you can distribute a call-in number or simply a URL they can visit to access the audio line. It's free and it even allows you to dial out to people if they haven't joined the call yet. If you would prefer to use screensharing, try Join.me.
4. Record the call and, if possible, find someone to take notes
During the call, you want to focus on responding to questions and being entirely engaged in the discussion. Recording the call and having a scribe will allow you to take it all in.
5. Start the call with brief introductions
This will help your coaches understand their unique expertise and how it fits into the group.
6. Explain your goals for the call and for the coaching process as a whole
You always want to set the right expectations, up front.
6. Run through a 10-minute investor pitch, timed
The discipline is important. Be prepared to adjust your "script" if you go overtime and stop yourself if you get to 15 minutes. You will be better served by allowing your advisors to take over and steer the conversation to the areas of the business they want to know more about.
7. After the pitch, open it up to Q&A
Start with general comments or questions, and only then ask your specific questions. The team's initial reactions to your pitch are very informative about how you need to evolve the pitch.
8. Close the call by discussing the next steps
Ask each advisor to share the areas where they feel they can contribute the most to your pitch or the business. This will kick-start your next conversation with them.
9. Follow up individually with each advisor and circulate periodic updates
Look to schedule a call every 1-2 weeks depending on the time commitment you told advisors when you first recruited them. Always set a clear goal for each meeting and never exceed the allotted time for the call. Model your updates after the updates you send to your investors (a slimmed down version without the financial details would do).
10. Give closure
At the end of the defined period, schedule another group call for one final round of feedback, and a shared discussion on who you should be talking to next. Consider retaining the services of your coaches beyond the initial period, if they added significant value, and continue to keep in touch.