As you build your business, you might need to seek out advisors.
Before extending an invitation to people outside your business to help you grow it, be sure to first think through a few things so you'll treat them, their time and expertise with respect.
1. Rely on a solid business plan.
When you ask an advisor to help you with your new business, he or she will likely want to see a copy of your business plan to better understand your strategy for entering a particular market.
Ideally you will have already created such a business plan, which can prove that you have an idea worth supporting and might result in your company's receiving a first round of financing.
You might enlist an advisor to help you write your first plan. (After I wrote business plans for two health care startups, these proposals enabled them to receive first rounds of financing.)
2. Wield your competitive advantage.
Having a solid business plan means that you understand your company's competitive advantage as compared with that of other players in the market. Comprehending what your company can do better than any other firm will help you demonstrate your startup's value to your advisor and the market as well.
Providing a sense of the competitive advantage to an advisor will help him or her to know how to best assist your startup.
After creating a solid business plan, you'll need a creative marketing plan: Your new product or service will not launch itself and you'll need to find a way to cut through the clutter of the many products and services in the market to inform your target customers why your company is better. An advisor can help you develop one.
3. Plan to compensate advisors.
Don’t ask for expert help before you have a plan to compensate the individuals involved for their time and expertise. When you ask people to commit their time, don’t just plan on telling them that you don’t have a way to pay them or that the experience will be good for them.
Experts are just that because they've invested in their education and career. Don’t show them disrespect by assuming that they would work for you for free. Maybe your friends and family will, but an outside advisor often will not.
4. Don’t take advantage of generosity.
Finally, when an advisor offers to help you with your new business, use that person's time wisely. This includes being organized, communicating regularly and responding promptly.
Experts typically have multiple projects going on and expect to be part of a professional organization, even if it's in the startup phase.