As you may already know, amongst other things, I am a mentor with PeerThinc and am also currently a uni student, studying management. This is giving me the most wonderful vision of both sides of the mentoring fence. I see businesses linking with uni students to mentor them and uni students who desperately need mentoring not even being aware that it could help.
More interestingly, I have just finished an entrepreneurship start-up studio and during this course I met with a number of entrepreneurs and mentors of entrepreneurs. Here are my thoughts on how mentors can help entrepreneurs – regardless of the entrepreneur’s level of experience.
1. The Builder’s Eye - a mentor is an outsider, someone with experiences external to your new enterprise. Your scope must be narrow or highly specific in order to achieve your value proposition. Your mentor has, what I like to call, ‘the builder’s eye’- a fresh eye for your offer. Your mentor can see a bigger picture and look at what you are doing in a different way because they are not living and breathing the business. This means your mentor will challenge and stretch you – all mentors should do this but, for an entrepreneur, you need to be taken to different concepts as part of your business iteration process.
2. Beat the Loneliness – I spoke with Terry Gold, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Innovation & Collaboration Centre UniSA who said “ Starting a business, especially a start-up, that you hope will grow fast and go global is not just hard, it’s lonely work. You may be surrounded by people most of the time but very few will actually understand what you are going through to start a company from nothing. Even friends and family will wonder why you have quit your job to risk everything to start a company. That’s where a mentor can help. I think as a mentor myself the most valuable thing I give is not advice but empathy. And any advice I might give comes from having been an entrepreneur myself who knows how hard it can be.”
3. Chatbot 101 – you know how those pesky chatbots work – ask a simple question, get a simple answer; ask a complex question, get a referral to a real person! Well, your mentor can be your personal Chatbot! Oh yes – they will take your questions, simple and complex, and might give you an answer but most often they will give you a referral. The referral back to yourself and to exploration of the questions that abound. Your inner knowledge, your ‘gut feel’. They will bounce that around and draw it out of you. You might not even have known it was there but your personal Chatbot will. Your personal Chatbot will ask you questions, make you think and keep you stretching.
4. Commitment – your mentor and you may be committed for a short or a very long time – whichever it is there is a commitment. That is the easy commitment. Your mentor will push you to think and question and maybe pivot your ideas. But importantly, your mentor will make you commit to action – that is the hard commitment – that’s the one you often don’t get from family, friends and self. Commit to timeline. Commit to research. Commit to follow-up. Commit to action. Commit to growth.
5. Truth or Dare – your mentor will tell you the truth – they have no other agenda. Will your friends and family and other work colleagues ever dare do that? Your mentor will listen, question, ponder, consider and then listen more. All to build what they need to identify the truth – the truth about tiny little areas that you talk about or the truth about what they see, as an outside influence. Terry Gold believes that “starting a company might be easier than most people think but only if the founder keeps it in perspective and manages their own mind while they are in the thick of it. A mentor can help show how it’s possible.”
6. Tough Times Support is a key mentor service according to Terry Gold “There is a lot of support for start-ups today, but much of it is technical - how to start, how to protect IP, how to sell, how to hire employees. That’s all great but I’ve found that what is lacking is the support a founder needs when they can’t sleep at night or they are feeling the pressure of having started something that has grown to something much bigger than the individual. That’s where a good mentor comes in, so ideally not only can they help with some of the technical stuff but they can also help to support the founder through the tough days and nights when they don’t even know what they don’t know.”
If you are an entrepreneur – early or late stage – with a mentor, check in on this list with them. If you don’t have a mentor then the time to find one is now.
Share these notes with your mentor and set some challenges together.
Let me know what resonates with you or if you have any other reason why all entrepreneurs should have a mentor.
‘Til next time.