In my view, the key role of a mentor is to provide experienced perspectives to help startup founders take better informed decisions.
A good mentor-mentee relationship can be game-changing for a startup, and therefore it is important that both – mentor and mentee – understand how they can make the engagement meaningful, productive, rewarding and fulfilling.
Mentoring is way beyond business advice and expertise sharing. A good mentor can make significant contribution in not just the success of a startup, but also in the personal and professional growth of an entrepreneur. And therefore, I advise entrepreneurs to not give the tag of a ‘mentor’ loosely to anyone whose advice you seek regularly, and I advice those who wish to mentor startups to see this as a serious responsibility.
A mentor is someone who accepts the responsibility of guiding the founders in their journey as entrepreneurs. He/she too should have a high level of commitment towards your success.
Who is a good mentor for your venture?
Someone who has a more experienced perspective on areas of the business that founders do not have an expertise in can be a good mentor.
E.g. while the founders may have adequate experience in building the product/solution, they may not be as aware of aspects like distribution, marketing, sales, finance, HR, operations management, fund-raising, etc., etc. Once you identify the need gaps in expertise within your team, you will be able to identify more precisely the areas in which you need expert advice.
A good mentor is not just someone who has the expertise you seek, but also someone who has the aptitude to share and guide and teach.
When selecting a mentor founders should also check for personal chemistry. There should be respect, yet there should be space for a difference in views. If a mentor is unable to accept alternate views than his/her own, it can be a challenging situation for founders.
Also, the mentor should have adequate time and mind-space for you. Else, all the above is meaningless. (Typically I have seen that he best mentor-mentee relationships are the ones where there is at least a fortnightly call, and at least one 1-2 hour long in-person meeting a month. If these meetings are outside office, they help create a stronger personal bond. While long-distance mentoring works too, it is much harder building the personal chemistry that in-person sessions can bring).
What is the role of a mentor
A mentor’s role is to provide perspective on the direction that the venture may take, and this means that the mentor should not just give opinion on what he/she feels is right, but should see the venture in the context of the individual mentee’s circumstances and then help the mentee take necessary decisions.
A mentor should not enforce his/her views but provide the inputs that will help the mentee take better-informed decisions.
Common mistakes to avoid as mentees
Each mentor mentee relationship is unique, and it will be good to hear form you what your experiences with your mentors were.
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