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s a business owner, you are not expected to have all the skills and knowledge needed to run a successful business from the start, especially when your business is going through a period of transformation or growth. Stumbling into new territory is an expected and inevitable part of any growing startup. Therefore, hiring a business advisor can be very beneficial for getting your business through new problems or challenges.  Finding the right business advisor is difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for. You will need to find an advisor who is an expert in your specific field.

However, there are universal skills that every business advisor should have to help you transform your business into a thriving, well-oiled machine. Whether you are searching for a business advisor or simply thinking about starting the search, here are five essential skills that every advisor should have to help your startup succeed:  

1. Leadership

The main role of an advisor is to help businesses through periods of change or growth. Therefore, it is important to look for someone with experience or background related to leadership coaching. Leadership is a critical management skill — if you find an advisor who views their position from a coaching standpoint, you can ensure that, as an entrepreneur, you will receive the guidance necessary to transform your business, even after you stop working with your advisor.   With a coaching mentality, your advisor will know how to initiate a collaborative relationship between coach (the advisor) and developing leader (you). Your relationship with your advisor should be a partnership consisting of an agreed-upon end goal and plans for how to achieve it. Throughout our lives, we have a multitude of teachers, counselors, and mentors — this concept of leadership should extend to your company as well. Never be ashamed to ask your “coach” or advisor for help.  

2. Time Management

Time management may seem like a simple skill to a startup founder, but in terms of business, it refers to both long-term and short-term time management. Your advisor should help you set a long-term goal, along with a few short-term goals to help you get there. Since you likely won’t have an advisor for an extended period of time, you should search for one who has successfully helped other businesses reach their goals in a timely manner. Ask how they will help you with your long-term planning and how you can use your time together as efficiently as possible. From there, you will be able to take control and accomplish your short-term goals much more easily.  

3. Empathy

Your advisor should be able to fully understand your current values, mission, and future ambitions. You cannot reach your goal if you don’t have a clear vision; this goes for your advisor as well. If he or she doesn’t help you make decisions based on your company’s mission, he or she may not be the right advisor for you. Find someone who will assist you in accomplishing your goals without compromising your core values or allowing your profits to suffer.   Since your advisor will be your go-to for any concerns about your company, let them know up front what you are looking for. A few small differences between you and your advisor can be a good thing, providing you with a new perspective on certain ideas, but be sure that he or she is still on the same page with your fundamental values. An experienced advisor should have empathy towards your beliefs and goals, while also creating unique plans with you rather than for or against you.  

4. Expression of Opinions

Having and sharing opinions illustrates that an advisor is knowledgeable in his or her field. The word “opinion,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert.” Your advisor’s job is to be that expert. Although you should never compromise your company’s integrity, mission, or vision, you should listen and consider your advisor’s opinions to help inform your decisions.  Some advisors will have stronger opinions in certain areas than others. Usually, their “stronger” opinions are surrounding their area(s) of expertise. These are the opinions you should be listening most closely to because they draw from personal knowledge and experience. A great advisor will have many sensible, well-informed opinions and is not afraid to share them.  

5. Accuracy

The best advisors are not only good coaches, great planners, and skilled salespeople. They are also knowledgeable, experienced, and accurate. “Accurate” is a key word when referring to an advisor because it is possible to be knowledgeable without experience in certain fields. Furthermore, experience alone does not necessarily imply that someone is an expert. Accuracy is what pinpoints a great advisor; advisors should prove, without fail, that they have developed their knowledge within their field(s) and that their past experiences with other businesses have brought them success, or in other words, they have a high accuracy rate.  

Always be sure to find an advisor who you can trust and who you are comfortable around. This person will be your confidant during your times of transition. Choosing the right advisor who has these five qualities will ensure that your business transforms into the successful company you have envisioned from its very beginning.

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December 19, 2018

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