Archive for January, 2014

To Work for an Entrepreneur, Apply Like One

Posted: January 19, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Culture, People, Startup

BobGilbreathAhaMany people advise aspiring entrepreneurs to go work with a startup company before venturing out on their own. This offers a chance to live and breathe this high-paced world and learn from founder mentors while still pulling in a steady paycheck. But to work for an entrepreneur, you must job seek like an entrepreneur.

Over the past six months I have personally been involved in hiring over a dozen people for our startup, and I am surprised how little work most people put into applying. It might be that the shift to digital applications through sites like LinkedIn make it too easy for people to apply by clicking a button. But they forget that it’s just as easy for the hiring manager to hit “delete.” Winning a great job takes hard work and determination, and that’s doubly true when it comes to an entrepreneurial business or startup.

The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of the startup’s leaders. They put in many hours, make decisions at light speed, need people who can contribute immediately, and are passionate about their companies. A single bad hire can kill a promising company, yet the right hire can double or triple sales overnight. Any spare hour that the entrepreneur spends is precious, and she must be extremely choosey on where her time is spent. (more…)

Startup 101: Build an Advisory Board

Posted: January 11, 2014 by Vance VanDrake III in Leadership, People, Planning, Startup

vancevandrakeA strong advisory board, which shouldn’t be confused with a board of directors, is the single most valuable asset that a start-up can have.  An advisory board is generally a group of three to five individuals that advise the company, often for free, in a capacity that is less formal than that of a board of directors.  The value can be limitless, but some of the more significant benefits include the following:

  1. Your team is more important than your idea
    An A team with a B idea is more investable than a B team with an A idea.  Sophisticated investors bet on people, not ideas. This approach has become even more commonplace considering most start-ups pivot three or four times before settling on a business model. The original idea often evaporates and only a strong team can carry the company forward.  An advisory board gives you an instant team, often without giving up any equity, that can build credibility. Smart entrepreneurs will beef up an otherwise thin “management” slide on their deck with an impressive advisory board.
  2. It wont cost you anything
    Most advisory board members are not compensated and entrepreneurs should avoid, if possible, any payment other than picking up the occasional lunch tab. Entrepreneurs are the new rockstars and most founders don’t realize that being affiliated with a start-up is attractive; don’t be afraid to ask.  Prospective board members are likely to be flattered by your offer and will welcome the opportunity to lend a hand.
  3. The perfect advisory board member
    An advisory board member should be selected because they have (a) access to capital, (b) credibility, or (c) can provide a skill set that the current team lacks.  Every advisory board member should have at least one of these characteristics, but the perfect board member has all three.  Make a list of the skill sets that your business needs and draw up a “wish list” advisory board.  Leverage your network and start making “asks” of people that match your needs.
  4. Minimal time commitment
    An advisory board should not require much time from the founders or from the board members. Because advisory boards are generally not compensated, the time commitment should be less than a few hours a month. Many advisory boards never meet formally; entrepreneurs can reach out to specific board members when the need arises. The minimal time commitment can help entrepreneurs attract prestigious, but busy, prospective board members.
  5. Maximum flexibility
    Most advisory board members are not bound by contract or formal agreement. As a company grows, its needs may change and more prestigious individuals may be asked to serve.  The informality of an advisory board allows new members to be added and less relevant members need not be formally removed. There is no cap on the number of members allowed, which can help start-ups build a robust team.

joshua-johnson-thumbnailI was 23 when I determined to live the life of an entrepreneur. Like many, I was seduced by the idea of independent wealth, “owning my time”, and changing the world (all in the same breath, of course). These goals alone were not my vice. How I pursued them and the beliefs I acted out while driving toward success have often led me off course. I always believed that if I just worked harder and longer hours that it would equal a greater chance of success. While a diligent work ethic is important for our character and provision, I realized that too much of a good thing can also be destructive.

Have you heard that story of the woman who died from drinking too much water?

In essence, water intoxication occurs when a person drinks so much water that the other nutrients in the body become diluted to the point that they can no longer do their jobs. I believe this is a lot like the American work culture. We strive so hard for success, wealth, and sometimes fame, that we lose sight of the other necessary nutrients that give us life.