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Assembling mentors, advisors and board members

There is no one way to assemble a team of mentors, advisors and board members. In fact, as these teams exist to advise and assist the business owners, they have to be handpicked to develop the unique strengths and cater to the weaknesses of the individuals running the business in question. It is not possible to say that every board needs an expert in a certain field, or even that all business owners need mentors, but it is possible to define broadly the process for determining what guidance a business needs.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

The people who mentor and guide a business owner do two things. They help to develop the business owners strengths and they help to make up for the business owners weaknesses. Beyond this, they also play a role in contributing to business decisions, by acting as a sounding board for ideas. Members of the board have tools at their disposal to hold the business leaders accountable, and often members of the board are part owners as well. Mentors and advisors may not technically be part of the business, but that does not make them any less important or valuable.

A business owner must be able to critically evaluate their own skillset and their own shortcomings if they want to put together an advisory team that can push them past their limits.

You become who you associate with

Perhaps the most important principle in selecting mentors, advisors and board members is ensuring that they are role models. If a business owner wants to be massively successful, the best way to do that is to enlist the business advice of those who have already become massively successful. These people don’t just understand the path - they have walked it before.

In practice, business owners don’t get to simply pick the role models they want to work with. By nature, these role models are typically in better positions than the business owner themselves, and they are aware of the huge value they bring to the table. That’s why role models are rarely strangers to the entrepreneurs they advise. There is almost always some level of mutual benefit or emotional investment, which means that entrepreneurs who are in need of guidance have to develop themselves enough to offer something in return.

Mentors find you, not the other way around

What can be frustrating for many entrepreneurs is that they really have no way to compel someone into a role model position, or to make taking a seat on the board an attractive proposition. The person acting in that guidance role has to see something in the entrepreneur - some untapped potential or shining personal quality - which makes them believe in their goals and vision.

In fact, those who ‘go to market’ looking for advisors and board members may put themselves at risk of being taken advantage of, as someone in a stronger financial position sees an opportunity to profit without necessarily imparting skills and wisdom in return. That’s why it’s so important for entrepreneurs to network widely and work on themselves first and foremost, allowing relationships with other business owners to develop naturally over time. More often than not, the mentor relationship occurs spontaneously and without either party working towards it. From that point, ambitious entrepreneurs may seek to involve their mentors more directly by bringing them onto the board of directors and selling them an equity position in the business.