The Entrepreneurial Race Part 2: Picking a Pit Crew
March 21, 2013 4 Comments
Every entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur should watch the movie Cars. Not only is it a fun film, it also has a lot of great lessons for founders. In the last post, I discussed different ways to fund a startup and get it from the garage to the race track (several of which Lightning McQueen tried during his trip to the Piston Cup tie-breaker race). This post will focus on another essential part of any business: the mentors, advisors, and directors. These individuals serve as the pit crew for the race car that is your business.
A professional pit crew consists of 9-17 members, depending on the level and intensity of racing. Each member of the crew does a specific job to help the driver stay in the race and do his best, usually in a lightning fast manner. With each driver making 2-15 pit stops per race (depending on the length), the efficiency of a pit crew can make or break the race for their driver.
Just as any race car driver needs a solid pit crew, any business needs a strong team of mentors, advisors, and/or directors. Their skill sets, expertise, advice, and connections often prove to be invaluable to the founders of a new startup. Additionally, this team prevents the founder(s) from getting tunnel vision by challenging their ideas and encouraging them to think outside the box.
When selecting the mentors, advisors, or directors that will help keep your car moving around the track, it is best to first assess yourself as the driver. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you enjoy? Where do you lack experience? These questions will get you started on the search for the right pit crew.
In my brief entrepreneurial adventure with Agricultural Food Systems, my cofounders and I have greatly benefit from a variety of mentors and advisors who have complimented our youth and passion with experience and wisdom (not to mention adding legitimacy to our endeavor and serving as advocates for us within the marketplace). What did we look for when we were forming the pit crew for the AFS race car? Here are a few characteristics to look for in potential mentors/advisors/directors:
- Relevant Experience- obviously for an advisor to be of assistance to your startup in the long-run, they need to have a background in either the industry that you are going into or with the entrepreneurial lifestyle. You wouldn’t want someone on your pit crew changing tires for your race car when they’ve been fueling cars all their lives. For AFS, we selected advisors with experience in the processor, retail, safety, and scientific segments of the beef industry. They can give us feedback based on each segment that would have taken us years to gain on our own.
- Complementary Skills- Not only should your advisors have relevant experience, their experience and skill set should complement your own and those of the other advisors. Do you enjoy executing strategies, but have a hard time with long-term vision? Find an advisor for that will help you set realistic objectives that you can go and execute. Be sure to include a diversity of skills: you don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of tire changers with no one to fuel you up.
- Obvious Passion- In an earlier post, I mentioned passion as one of the 3 keys to entrepreneurial success. This principle extends to advisors as well. You want advisors that are just as excited about your business as you are. If you’re fortunate, you won’t have to spend much time looking for mentors because, once word gets out about what you’re building, they’ll come to you.
- Realistic Availability- Finally, you should look for advisors that can be available when you need to vet ideas, ask strategic questions, or have them give you a hand. Since time is any person’s most valuable resource, it is important to be up front with potential advisors about the time commitment they will have to make to be an effective pit crew member. Over-committed and busy advisors tend to not put their best effort into their pit stops because they are distracted by other responsibilities.
No matter how good your race car of a business is, you will need a pit crew at some point in order to succeed on the track. Lightning McQueen tried to make it without one and it almost cost him the Piston Cup. Whether you choose to compensate your mentors/advisors/directors is up to you, but do try to provide them some kind of incentive for tapping into their wisdom, experience, and connections.
Now that you have arrived at the track and formed your pit crew, it’s time for the race to begin!
Gentlemen, start your engines!
Go carts part 2 vine.co/v/bpDV7q3IHml
— Lawson Hembree (@LawsonHembree) March 20, 2013
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
[image credit: The US Army on Flickr]