I recently saw a foundation give a mid-stage startup over 10M dollars without ever allowing the leadership team to grow. It's true—all that money and not a single invitation to engage and develop the leaders. Don't believe me? Good. Let me tell you how it happens.
Investors with deep pockets listen to the pitch, look at the financials, realize the potential, flush out the quantitative metrics that will tell them when they're at risk, and then open up their wallet and give away their money. That's how it happens.
Somewhere in the middle, there's usually talk of hiring consultants to help the startup team with tasks that cannot be accomplished without an "assist" - and money is typically allocated for additional help. But consulting isn't the answer.
Consulting typically involves the consultant handing over new ideas for the startup to implement. But the truth about startups is that they rarely need ideas. Startups usually have more ideas than they know what to do with. The addition of ideas adds to the backlog of work and further constrains the team. So what do startups need? They need coaches.
Business Coaches bring the ability to nurture the skills of the startup team. Many things keep the founders up at night, and coaches have a unique ability to flush out the top priorities to keep the founder's attention focused on the tasks at hand.
Business Coaches can work with startup teams to ensure the outcomes, goals, and tasks are actionable. Coaches can keep the startup team curious. The opposite of judgment is curiosity, and it's a coach's job to elicit continuous interest from the leadership team.
Have you ever had the experience of someone paraphrasing or validating your words? Have you ever been surprised by how they sounded? Echoing ideas can enable you to uncover faulty logic and/or simplify your thoughts.
Finding a great Business Coach is hard. You want somebody you can relate to, who has been through what you're going through. Someone who can put their ego aside and care about you. Someone who knows how to work with top talent.
You will demand significant investment from your Executive or Business coach, in both time and emotional energy, so it's appropriate to compensate them appropriately. Remember that surrounding yourself with the best type of service and person that you need as you begin to expand will be one of the most significant influences on your potential success.
So the next time you think your startup needs a consultant, I challenge both the venture capitalist and founder to think again.