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How a business advisor can lighten an entrepreneur's load

Written by Sarah McVittie on Monday, 23 November 2015. Posted in Start-up Diaries

Dressipi co-founder Sarah McVittie reveals why the startup is seeking a little help as it looks to navigate a crucial stage of its growth

How a business advisor can lighten an entrepreneur's load

When you run a busy startup like Dressipi it’s so tempting just to want to put your head down and power through the work in front of you. In the five years since Donna and I started Dressipi we’ve grown it into a business that’s actively used by more than two million women and has picked up retailers like Shop Direct, Arcadia Group and M&S as customers. We’ve done all of this with a team of just 15 people.

But, as we bring in more users and customers and start the really exciting R&D project I talked about in last month’s column, we know that Dressipi is at a critical point in its growth. That's why Donna and I have started a search for an advisor to help us navigate the next nine to 12 months as efficiently as possible.

Why do we think we need an advisor? It’s not because we don’t think our amazing team doesn’t hold the answers to the challenges facing us a business or because our current board isn't brilliant. It’s because we think we need someone who can help us see beyond the day-to-day hurly-burly of running that business. We’re looking for a good external advisor who has some time and who asks the right questions and helps us identify our real priorities. You could almost think of them as being something like a personal trainer but for a business.

Of course, as with everything else in life, a person who might be great as an advisor to one business will not work with another, so it’s essential to find someone with the right fit and empathy. With this in mind – and knowing how important it is to get the right fit – Donna and I have spent time outlining exactly what it is that we are looking for.

For us, the ideal candidate would probably be a woman. This is because we’ve built up a business that is focused on meeting the needs of women and think it’s important that they appreciate what we do as a consumer, not just as an advisor. We’re also looking for someone with expertise in the sector we work, albeit probably more in the e-commerce or consumer technology space as we already have amazing retail experience from Stuart Rose. Additionally, we want to work with someone who shares our values and experience when it comes to growing a business. That means a person who has grown a company in the past without the support of a bigger corporate owner. Above all, we want someone who is a great strategic thinker with operational experience to boot.

Doesn’t sound like we want much, does it?

In all seriousness, filling an advisor role like this is a crucial issue for a startup undergoing a growth spurt. They bring the wealth of experience with them that can help you understand what you need to do to bring a customer in and, just as importantly, how you keep them. The good ones ask the hard questions and keep you focused on the right path. They’re hard to find but they’re worth their weight in gold.

So for the next few weeks, Donna will be raiding our address books and will hopefully be meeting with a selection of truly inspiring women. And if the fit is right, maybe team Dressipi will be one person bigger by the time I’m writing our first column of 2016. 

About the Author

Sarah McVittie

Sarah McVittie

McVittie is one half of the talented team behind Dressipi, the fashion tech startup that's stirring up the world of retail. McVittie and co-founder Donna Kelly evenly balance each other out, with product- and detail-focused Kelly packing the corporate capability and McVittie bringing the start-up skills with her sales and shareholding expertise.

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