Keys to Success

So you’ve come up with an idea for a small business. You’ve mapped it out. You’re confident in your business plan, and everything is lollipops and rainbows. But you have a thousand questions on how to actually get it all rolling.

This is where getting advice from the right people can be of an enormous benefit. Whether it’s seeking a mentor you can bounce things off of, or filling an official adviser position (or advisory board), it’s important to get the right voices around you. Here are a few tips to getting started.

Explore your extended network

It’s only natural to turn to close friends and family for insight on your start-up adventure. There could be value beyond that range as well, with your contacts on LinkedIn, and in other arenas. You may have a friend who has a colleague or boss that would be a perfect source of information, but you won’t know until you try. This is echoed in a story titled “How to Find a Business Network” on Inc.com. “If your friends and family give you enough unsolicited advice already, and you don’t think that’s the route for you, your remaining options are people who don’t know you as well or don’t know you at all yet. How do you ask for such a big commitment from a near stranger? The first step is to reach out to your network of contacts. A positive word from a mutual friend can go a long way toward getting a mentoring relationship off to a good start.”

Search for people in a similar field

You’re looking for people to help you reach your goals, so examine their background before bringing them into the fold. A successful person in another industry may have some general insight to share, but someone who has made it in a similar arena will know that much more. Rebekah Campbell, CEO of the Posse shopping and dining app, encountered this and wrote about it for the New York Times. “Some of the people I enlisted to my early advisory board sounded impressive,” she says. “They’d held high-level positions at big corporate companies. When we suffered some early start-up bumps, though, they were unprepared. Their knowledge of how a start-up should grow was based on watching The Social Network. When we didn’t hit it big straight out the gate, they became concerned. I learned to look for people who had built a similar company from the ground up.”

Look for the inquisitive type

You’ll have an abundance of questions for a mentor or adviser, but he or she should have a slew of them for you as well. Look for someone who eagerly inquires, rather than sitting back and waiting to be asked for something. Murray Newlands addressed this in a piece for Inc.com. “If an adviser is giving you good, quality questions at an interview, that is a pretty good sign he or she is interested in what your business has to offer,” he says. “Advisers will ask a lot of questions before diving in, just like investors will; they want to be sure their effort is well placed. This is also a good sign of a thorough individual who will bring the same personality trait to the table with your business.”

Don’t let the legal stuff pile up

Here’s an area that could confound new small-business owners. All the legal matters that are required to start a business can be overwhelming, so seek out an expert to help you through it, along with all the assorted costs involved. As Mamie Joeveer writes for Forbes, waiting until these become larger problems could become even more costly. She recommends tackling founders agreements, early tax elections, equity grants and IP ownership. “The increase in startups after the recession, coupled with cheaper costs in starting a business, led to a stronger attraction in entrepreneurship,” she writes. “And with many founders new to building a business, the need for legal advice has become even more pressing.”