Accessing Advice

Founders and entrepreneurs have to have a determination and resilience that often distinguishes them from those that are paid employees. It is not only that they have to find a gap in the market that they feel they can exploit, but they also have to have the confidence to back themselves to do that.

But no founder needs to be alone, whether they are a sole founder or a co-founder. Last week, we looked at building a team and working with advisors, but even before early-stage businesses get to that stage they are able to access a great deal of free advice. Advice comes in many forms, from free desk-based advice, through free professional advice, and on to fully paid professional services.

Care should of course be exercised when obtaining information online but ensuring that it comes from a reliable source is the best way to protect against getting wrong or incomplete information.  Always check the date in order to ensure that any information is still relevant and has not been superseded with new legislation or advances, and always cross-check with a few different sources.

Do not underestimate the truth that ‘you get what you pay for’ can be very true, and paying a good professional firm for advice will often be the best longer-term investment that a founder can make in their business. But there are also many ways of accessing professional advice either cheaply or totally free.

There are, perhaps, two main ways of doing this. The first is to attend many networking events on topics that you want to find out more information about. As well as listening to any specific content that is of relevance, it will also give you direct access to the speakers and people on the panel, and enable you to ask them direct questions. Just as importantly, attending such events will broaden your network of other professionals and entrepreneurs that are active in the space and any one of these may be useful at the time of the initial meeting or at some point in the future.

The second way of accessing professional advice without having to pay full professional costs is to join some form of accelerator programme. There are many of these and they operate in a wide range of ways. The largest is the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator programme. This, for example, is totally free and sector agnostic but focuses on early-stage existing businesses that range from already having an MVP to having a successful business that is looking to scale.

Others provide more of an incubator for concept stage businesses, whilst others still are very sector specific such as tech or fashion. Fee structures vary from a few hundred pounds, through to the programme taking a percentage of equity. With all these programmes, the more effort and time that the entrepreneur puts into them then the more useful they will be, so they are best suited to businesses at the beginning of the journey and should be seen as a short-term solution to help you get to the next level.

Some business consultants are also prepared to be flexible when looking to build long-term relationships with early-stage businesses and these may also be prepared to offer initial advice without charging.  This may also include being involved on the Advisory Board as was discussed in my previous article.

Whatever stage your business is at, there are many ways to access high quality advice, and exploring a number of these can be highly beneficial.  Just make sure that whatever source you use is dependable, and those that take the time to get closer to you and understand your business will be best placed to offer the best advice.