Get expert advice on every topic you need as a small business owner, from the ideation stage to your eventual exit. Our articles, quick tips, infographics and how-to guides can offer entrepreneurs the most up-to-date information they need to flourish.

Subscribe to our blog

How to Choose the Best Advisors For Your Startup

Posted by Early Growth

August 26, 2014    |     5-minute read (958 words)

Originally published in Business on Main.

While the specific dynamics of each relationship will be different, great startup advisors help entrepreneurs in a myriad of ways: from giving direct advice on tactics to high level business strategy. It's worth it to be thoughtful in assembling your informal "board" of advisors.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) posed the following question to members:

Q: What's one quality you should look for in a potential advisory board member? Why?

The Ability to Tell the CEO That He’s Wrong

It is not only important to have contrasting views, but it’s also important to be able to tell the CEO or management team that he feels the company is headed in the wrong direction or that a decision being made does not fall in line with the core principles the company was established on. I think it is important to have a strong mind that is not afraid to challenge and lead when needed.

Derek Capo | Next Step China


Many people can be initially excited by a concept, especially if your team excels at pitching. However, you need to find people whose records reflect that they maintain commitments. And then you need to have strategies to keep them interested. VCs may call upon advisors during due diligence. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ve listed them, but they’ve forgotten who you are.

Emily Eldridge Holdman | The Remarkables

Coaching Ability

The best advisors don’t just tell you the answer. They know that they don’t know the answer, and the best way to help is to ask powerful questions that get a mentee to think differently and question his own assumptions. Ask questions—don’t give advice.

Erica Dhawan | Erica Dhawan, LLC

A Passion for Something Other Than Making Money

Increased revenue and profitability are byproducts of honesty, hard work, thought leadership and authentic passion around your trade. Find someone who’s not willing to sacrifice those most scalable attributes while they consult.

Andrew Loos | Attack!

Excitement About Your Idea

We want someone who is as excited about our idea as we are—because that’s what gets people motivated to help you beyond what’s necessary.

Benish Shah | Vicaire Ny

An Action-Oriented Personality

The one quality we always look for when thinking through an advisory board is the ability for the person to translate his advice to action. When choosing between a big name and someone who actually greases the wheels and participates, I would always pick the latter.

Azita Ardakani | Love Social

Deep Industry Knowledge

You want someone who has strong industry expertise that you can use for strategic planning. Their involvement in your industry will also mean a larger professional network that you can utilize. And their deep knowledge of your industry will help you to avoid making major mistakes.

David Ehrenberg | Early Growth Financial Services

Culture Fit

Culture fit sounds like something that is talked about frequently during employee hiring, but not during board-building processes. If the advisors of the company don’t understand the personality, passion and purpose of the startup they’re helping, their advice is likely to miss the mark, and the entrepreneurs may end up taking it with a grain of salt.

Shradha Agarwal | ContextMedia

Alignment With Key Team Members

One of my favorite ideas for adding advisors is matching them up with one of your executives/key team members. They often need them just as much as you do!

Derek Flanzraich | Greatist

Communication Skills

Communication skills are essential. If he can’t communicate advice—or communicates it badly—it won’t help you succeed. All that knowledge is wasted.

Jordan Guernsey | Molding Box

Networking Skills

The ability to network is crucial. People don’t realize how important it is to have a strategic advisor who can connect you with the right people and resources to help expand your company faster.

Aaron Pitman | API Domain Investments


Intelligence is essential. Advisors should be wicked smart, with black-and-white common sense so anything can be debated (and never argued).

Ziver Birg | ZIVELO

A Background That Adds to Your Board’s Diversity

I stacked my advisory board with a cross section of people: doctors, vice presidents, managers, retirees and average Joes. I also went with customers and non-customers who were people I respected and wanted advice from. Don’t forget that these people need to share a diverse background of experience to draw from if they’re going to be of assistance to your company.

Robby Hill | HillSouth

Niche Skill Sets

I look for specialty experience. We brought on an advisor with marketing experience in the specific area of our new startup: a mail-order subscription service for makeup, health and beauty. We wanted to make sure we would reach the right audience online and through social media.

Joe Martin | Merchandize Liquidators


One quality you need from an advisor is experience in the trenches of business. If you have someone on your advisory board who’s been where you want to go and can help you avoid pitfalls, you’re saving yourself a lot of headaches.

Joe Barton | Barton Publishing

What do you look for in an advisory board member? Tell us about it in the comments section below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for help assessing your financial health and setting milestones.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Related Posts:

Learn how we can put more time back in your day.