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ATDC Startup Best Practice: Advisors Help Entrepreneurs

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ATDC Startup Best Practice:
Advisors Help Entrepreneurs to Do More With Less
By Cindy Cheatham, Venture Catalyst, ATDC

Entrepreneurship is about gathering resources and careful management of risk. Seasoned advisors can be an invaluable asset to entrepreneurs in helping them navigate the uncertain territories of business formation and growth. And they are a key resource for subject-matter expertise, industry knowledge, connections and strategic advice. Access to a wide range of expertise at little cost through an advisory board helps entrepreneurs leverage their scarce time and resources.

Wise Entrepreneurs are not shy about Asking for Help
Wise entrepreneurs are willing to step out of their comfort zones and ask for help. They invite challenges and constructive critique of their business. And they are adept at recruiting others who are committed to their business but not simply looking to rubber stamp the entrepreneur’s viewpoint.

Advisors Help Entrepreneurs Develop Roadmap
I once heard a venture capitalist describe the ideal entrepreneur as a conservative optimist. They are optimistic enough to persevere through the seemingly impossible obstacles of entrepreneurship. Yet they manage their business conservatively. This ideal entrepreneur was further described as grounded by market facts and intensely focused on business basics. According to Dan Myers, founder of Online Banking Solutions and former founder of Magnet Communications, advisors such as ATDC venture catalysts help him to stay grounded. Myers says that ATDC advisors “help me to develop a roadmap that is practical, real and spot on to where I am and what I need to get done. They help me sequence my key activities with the short and mid-range in mind.”

At a time when many entrepreneurs are bootstrapping their companies and do not have boards of directors, several of ATDC’s member company CEO’s hold regular advisory board meetings to gain some of the discipline benefits provided by this group. These meetings help entrepreneurs to refine their company’s strategy. And advisors stay adequately informed to be effective advocates and contributors to the company.

Advisors Enhance Company’s Attractiveness
Solid, reputable advisors can also significantly enhance the credibility of a start-up company. This credibility can be the differentiator in getting customers or investors to make a big bet on your company. According to Sig Mosley of Imlay Investments…..”Having a solid advisory board of industry or technology experts who demonstrate commitment of their time and talents can be a real asset to early stage companies.”

Advisory Group Development is Good Investment
Finding the right advisors and effectively utilizing them takes time but the payoff can be substantial. Make sure that advisors not only have skills or connections to offer but that they also demonstrate passion for and commitment to your business. Although it is often appropriate for advisors to be compensated a small amount of equity after demonstrating this commitment, they should not be looking to fill their pocketbooks. When done right, solid advisors can help provide your company with a solid start-up team.

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a nationally recognized technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. ATDC provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to the people and resources they need to succeed.

For further information on ATDC go to www.atdc.org. For more information on boards of advisors and directors, go to ATDC’s Entrepreneurs Resource Center at www.atdc.org/erc and type advisors into the search function.