A not often discussed but key factor in the startup world is the role of the mentor. Frequently, a mentor helps the founders of a startup succeed by providing much needed perspective through guidance. Countless are the stories of successful startups with mentors playing an important role in steering the business towards its goals.
Certainly, it’s not an entirely necessary part of the equation although finding the right mentor can make all the difference. Sure, startup incubators and accelerators often offer participants mentorship, but you can find a great mentor outside of those environments as well. (Or if you’re like our editor, Dawn, the right mentor may just find you when you least expect it. Be open to the people who come into your life.)
As A Source Of Encouragement
The right mentor will provide the encouragement needed to get through the inevitable challenges faced as a startup. That is, the motivational level the mentor transmits is steady and this allows the startup to maintain focus when things don’t seem to be going as planned. As an admirer of your idea and your startup, the mentor is there with a positive perspective about what is happening.
Since your mentor already has notable business experience, the mentorship is about open and constructive advice. Providing valuable insight is priceless and a mentor is there to provide this.
A mentor tells you the truth based on experience. If an idea or solution is bad one, the mentor will let it be known. The objective of a startup is success so it follows that a mentor will express what needs to be said instead of considering anyone’s ego. A mentor sees the bigger picture and understands that temporary tension brought on by a difference in strategy is more important than intentionally entering into a questionable decision.
This directness is invaluable as it helps mold the talent the mentor already sees in the entrepreneur. A mentor wouldn’t agree to provide advice (many times for free) if he or she didn’t perceive special talent or vision.
It’s a frustrating and sometimes costly experience to make mistakes and a mentor helps prevent mistakes that a new entrepreneur may make based on lack of experience. Making mistakes has the benefit of acting as a learning tool although in this context a mentor has probably already made many and this helps a startup avoid some potentially harmful ones. A budding entrepreneur doesn’t always have the time or resources to make too many mistakes.
The benefit of this kind of relationship is that it also allows the mentor to fine tune what he or she perceives is holding the startup back. A good mentor means that you won’t always like what they have to say regarding business strategy. A good mentor is just that: a good mentor. Becoming friends with a mentor is the icing on the cake although it’s not the focus.
In addition, a mentor helps eliminate weaknesses because he or she sees a positive future somewhat more clearly than anyone else involved in the startup process. If they didn’t’ see a fruitful future, then they wouldn’t have agreed to lend their professional opinion towards your startup.
Progress reports are essential and your mentor will be requesting them regularly. This keeps the startup on point and this helps the new entrepreneur maintain and present a level of professionalism that will be read positively to other professional contacts.
Further, a sense of trust will develop with a good mentor and over time that trust will grow even stronger. There are many rewards to seeking and maintaining a mentor – studies show that people who have a mentor, make more money. Choose well and your startup may well be on its way to success.