Is your Role to be on Stage or Upstage?

Is your Role to be on Stage or Upstage?

Entrepreneurs should engage either a personal or corporate advisor or an advisory board. The roles of the advisors differ, but they generally fall into the following categories: money, marketing, making something, management, manpower, mentors, monitoring the environment and mergers and acquisitions.

To be effective, the entrepreneur and the advisor need to clarify expectations, timelines and deliverable and play nice together. Doctors have a hard time with that.

Sometimes, however, there is a miscommunication, either intentionally or unintentionally, about whether the advisor is expected to be on stage or is there to upstage the competition or honestly tell truth to authority or disseminate fake news.

On stage advisors are like hood ornaments on an expensive car. They are there to build brand equity but otherwise serve little or no useful purpose. Usually they are key opinion leaders in their field, are prominently posted on the company website and have little or no strategic or tactical value. In short, they are there for show or expected to be brand ambassadors. Worst case, when they offer candid advice or criticism, they are marginalised or fired.

Upstager advisors, on the other hand, are specifically hired to offer both strategic and execution advice designed to upstage the competition and help the company achieve their next critical success benchmark, like a financing round, help find a strategic partner, assist with customer discovery or be part of a minimally viable pilot team.

If you are entering into an entrepreneur-advisor agreement, but sure you both have a clear understanding about role definition and expectations. Being on stage means you play a bit part in innovation theatre. Upstagers bring down the house.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs

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  • Steve Thompson

    I dream to become a medical entrepreneur but my wife doesn't support my decision. She thinks I won't have time for her........

  • Cara Fernandez

    Truly valuable information

  • Anabelle St Martin

    I hope one day I can be half as enlightened and successful as you are.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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