MaRS Library Working with investors and other advisors
You’ve closed on the financing from outside investors and the money is in the bank. Now you have to continue building upon the partnership you’ve developed with your investors to execute on the business plan you presented to them. Make sure that you develop a good working relationship with your investors so that you have a partner through both good and challenging times you will face as you execute on your business plan and scale your business. Early-stage companies also tend to be strapped for resources. Establishing an advisory board is one way to bring expertise to the organization.
Working with investors
A good investor should spend a significant amount of time in the first three to four months of the investment with company management. Take this opportunity to bounce ideas, strategies and execution plans off them. You targeted certain investors not only because they had money, but because they are networked and connected in the industry. Work out a plan to tap into their contacts to access customers, potential employees, partners, suppliers and advisors. The goal is to build a strong, collaborative working relationship built on trust.
Working with advisory boards
Early-stage companies tend to have a small management team and a small board of directors. Additional outside assistance can be addressed by creating an advisory board. An advisory board provides guidance and advice to management, but does not have decision-making powers or management responsibilities. These members may be future customers, partners, industry contacts and potential board members. Their affiliation with your company can also add credibility to your organization. Your company may have one general advisory board or several specialized advisory board (for example, marketing, technical, financing, scientific).
Some early-stage companies may not qualify for Directors& Officers (D&O) insurance and therefore may not be able to recruit independent members to their board of directors. Advisory boards offer an alternative way to get these valuable external people contributing to your organization.
Tips for cultivating a good working relationship with investors and advisors
- You will need to share both good and bad news with your investors and directors. Communicate with them as soon as you can. Do not keep the bad news to yourself, as it will come out at some point. If investors and board members think that you are hiding something, they will lose faith in you and your management skills. Investors know and expect that everything will not unfold as per the plan.
- If an issue arises, think about potential solutions in advance of your discussion with investors. Use the opportunity to bounce ideas off your investors, directors and advisors. They are one of your best resources.
- Communicate regularly, but use their time judicially.
- If you have a large group of investors or advisors that you’d like to update regularly, send out a“Letter from the CEO” that highlights key events. Some companies use a newsletter format to provide progress updates on development, key hires, new customers or partners.
Kawasaki, G. (2004). The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. Toronto: Penguin Canada.
- Startup financing: Venture capital (VC) and private equity.
- Elements of a term sheet: Funding, liquidation and corporate governance.
- Legal advice: Lawyers and legal counsel for your startup.
- Startup phase of company development: Funding, investors, risks and expectations.
- What’s the right board size and structure?.