Surround Yourself with Smart, Trustworthy People

Recently, on behalf of a couple of new business owners I had met, I reached out to a past client because I thought they could provide some insight to and even connections for these new individuals.  This week, I got an email back from the past client in which they made a statement which I think is very apropos to the content of my last few blogs.

The past client said that the individuals should “surround themselves with smart, trustworthy people.  You can’t do these sorts of things alone.  Building a strong team around you takes time, a great deal of belief, money and tenacity.”  They clearly hit on my recent themes of “you can’t do this alone” and “get good people on your team”; but, in just those few words they touched on so much more.

Of course, it should go without saying that you want to work with “smart, trustworthy people”, but it amazes me the number of stories I hear about people who are willing to take advantage of the naivete of many new business owners.  So how do you avoid these types of situations where you might get “taken to the cleaners”?  There are two aspects of this that I would like to touch on.

First, your referrals should, wherever possible, come from people you already know.  Building a network of people you know and trust is something that you should always be doing.  When you are about to start a business for the first time it is something that you should put into overdrive.  This network should be your first stop for information and referrals.

Second, when these referrals take you out of your known network, you should still use your network as an extension to your “bulls**t meter”.  Talking things over with people you know is a great way to help ferret out any potential issues with a situation.  Try to get multiple viewpoints, as this will allow you to build a more complete picture of what may be happening and what your approach should be.  Discussing things with others is also a first step to defining your Advisory Team.

I believe that this creation of a group of knowledgeable advisors is an important early step that is too frequently skipped by the first-time entrepreneur, or not handled with enough attention.  It is important that your advisors have the requisite “been there; done that” experience; after all, you are looking to them to help you avoid making some of the mistakes that you most certainly would make without their advice.

To get multiple viewpoints, you will need to have advisors with overlapping knowledge and experiences.  Don’t feel that just because you have advisor A with XYZ experience that you shouldn’t have someone else with similar or overlapping skills – after all, this isn’t some closed networking group where you can only have one person from each product/service area.

Even with this approach you are probably going to need to, at some point, build a business relationship with people that you don’t really know at the beginning of the relationship.  In these situations, you should never be choosing from a pool of one.  Understanding how different people can help you with the same issue allows you to better understand which is the person with the right approach for you.  Of course, this is where it “takes time, a great deal of belief, money and tenacity” comes into play.  This approach is going to take you longer to move forward with than if you just went with the first person you talked to.  In the end it is time well spent, because it saves you time and aggravation (and possibly worse) down the road.  Think of it as the difference between running off to Vegas to get married to someone you just met, versus taking time to get to know the person (meeting their friends, family, etc.) – running off to Vegas is not always the wrong choice, it just has a higher probability of being the wrong choice because there are so many more unknowns.

As I said last week, your team is important because the right team will allow you to move ahead more quickly with the growth of your business.

Excellent Execution

Posted in Advisory Teams, Entrepreneur, Small Business and tagged , , , , , .


  1. [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group – CEO Space]

    What if you’re a first timer and you don’t know who or why to trust anyone? Most people only want to make money or steal your ideas/inventions or they cause you to become overly in debt with false hype and excuses…

    • [This comment was originally posted to the LinkedIn Group – CEO Space]

      As I said in the post: “Building a network of people you know and trust is something that you should always be doing. When you are about to start a business for the first time it is something that you should put into overdrive.”

      I think it is an over exaggeration that “most people only want to make money or steal your ideas”, but there are definitely people out there like that. On the other hand, I’ve met first timers who value the services provided by looking at the balance in their checking account.

      One of the main thrusts of this post was to encourage you to continually be expanding your “trusted network”. It takes time, and if you try to get things done without a good trusted network, then you are more susceptible to the “make money/steal your idea” types.

      Personally, I have found CEO Space a great way to expand my trusted network.

      John H.

      • [This comment was originally posted to the LinkedIn Group – CEO Space]

        Don’t have the capital to keep on going to the forums; I’ve been broke for quite a while now. I thought I was poor but have learned that I am just “broke” at the moment. I was also advised not to use credit anymore by a CEO Space instructor.

  2. [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group]

    What I think you are suggesting is creating a board of advisors during the early stages of a new company. I fully agree with that concept.
    Having served and created such boards I am always amazed at how well these boards work if the right people are serving (many times value added investors) and managed by the founder/CEO.
    What I mean by managed is, if a member is not participating to the level he/she is expected, then the person should be asked to leave. This really sends a signal that the founder/CEO is taking this very seriously.
    On the other hand, if the founder/CEO is not listening to his/her board then it is up to the members to express their frustration/displeasure.
    Smart, trustworthy people can make your company very successful.

    • [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group]

      Jeff, thanks for the comments. I agree with what you say about managing the advisors.

      However, while creating a formal Board of Advisors can be a natural outgrowth of what I am suggesting, I try to stay away from that particular title until it is appropriate.

      Part of the problem is the expectations of the advisors. When it is formalized as a Board, many people conflate that with an extension of a Board of Directors and, therefore, expect compensation for their time/input – not something the new business owner needs to commit to in those early stages.

      In my experience, people don’t use their “trusted network” enough to get valuable input when they are still thinking about their business idea, or even just getting started. This can be informal conversations with those individuals.

      The next evolution would be an Advisory Team, where there is a little more formality about the expectations from the advisor (no more than a couple of hours a month), the opportunity to have advisors interact on issues, but still no compensation expectations. (Notice, I said “compensation expectations” – in this situation it is perfectly acceptable for the business owner to compensate an advisor that goes “above and beyond”).

      Once the advisors’ time commitment becomes greater then I see defining this as a more formal board, potentially with a regular meeting/communication schedule (in addition to any ad-hoc needs).

      Bottom line though, we both agree that gathering the right people around you will help make your business more successful than it would be without them.


      John H.

      • [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group]

        I agree with you John. That is why I mention “value added investors” as your group of trusted advisors. These people, by definiton, believe in the CEO, understand the business model and are probably successfull people in their own right.
        There is nothing like experienced, well connected people to help you make your business successful.

  3. [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group]

    It’s my contention that “Trust is the Killer App”. I have been trusting people, without thinking that the trust may not be warranted. Who is your competitor? How much can you disclose? What sort of Agreements do you need? Do you need Legal Counsel to review everything? I think your advice on finding smart, trustworthy people is excellent. But exactly how do you go about doing this? Would be very much interested in your views. Thanks.

  4. [This comment was originally posted to a LinkedIn Group]

    Smart and trustworthy……also applies to the input for making decisions. Totally agree that you gain significant advantage when the people around you are smart and trustworthy.

    This is just as true for information. Decisions are based on “something,” whether it’s experience, gut, or data. What owners and leaders often fail to recognize is that what they know may no longer be true unless they’ve recently sought out current, objective and sufficient information. More importantly, experience, data, and intuition reflects the past and does not include what’s emerging and changing – the best source of opportunity and competitive advantage.

    Our clients are always (up always) amazed at how many opportunities exist, even in today’s economy, that they never considered. Long list which includes customers (B2B, B2C) who don’t fit target profile, alternative uses, new markets/industries, different distribution channels, and so much more.

    As you said, John, you can’t do this alone. Same for connecting with the right people who provide a broader, more realistic, and external viewpoint.

  5. Greetings John: I very much believe in all that you suggest and support I am looking to grow my team along sage advice–especially when white men are not always trusted in Indian Country…. I could gain much of the support and trust of Indian Country all throughout the Indigeneous Family groups and tribes in Africa and Asia, etc. My adoption by Maori Tribes x 2 is an indicator that I have begun to gain trust in Indian Country left and right and am seeking even greater advice in re-creating pensions and land that was heineously removed by decree and by force over hundreds of years of misdirection, deceit and out and out disrespect of cultures from the Crown on down. I am presently aligned with higher levels of thought and honor with a New Zealand group in Northern New Zealand.

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