Over the past few years I’ve been asked: “How have you managed to build such extraordinary Advisory Boards?” My answer is simple, “LinkedIn.” Using LinkedIn, I’ve successfully built world-class Advisory Boards for my last two start-ups – all by networking on LinkedIn. And most of these contacts are people I never would have met otherwise. In my last company, after working together for two years – I even hired one of my Advisors from LinkedIn to serve as my COO.
Simply put: LinkedIn is a very powerful tool for entrepreneurs who need to build contacts in a specific industry very quickly. I’ve used two primary approaches to identify my targets: First, I search for people with certain titles and narrow it down by industry, location and past and/or present company. Once I find interesting candidates, I follow where their profile takes me: usually there are other interested profiles associated through referrals or “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” Don’t underestimate the power of crowd sourcing and the data team at LinkedIn. And without a paid account on LinkedIn, “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” has become the quickest way for me to find targets matching my criteria.
Before you get started building your Advisory Board on LinkedIn, make a list of the personas of the ideal candidates for each available board opening. In my current company, I had very specific requirements and I didn’t limit myself to any geographies. This allowed me to build a Business Advisory Board of 5 people in 60 days that were almost the exact fit to my criteria – and all have proven to be valuable additions.
I’ve also learned to add Advisors before you need them. So for example, if you need someone who is connected with Venture Capital firms, add that person as an Advisor a year before you plan to raise institutional money so that the person can track your progress and believe in your team’s ability to execute.
And just like any new relationship, you only get out what you put in. Over the first few months, I suggest you actively communicate and share your Company’s vision with your Advisors. You want Advisors interested in becoming part of your operation in their area of expertise – this will pave the way!
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