“Mentors can be one of the most powerful weapons for an entrepreneur, by providing guidance, wisdom and connections,” says Lourdes Martin Rosa, an American Express Open advisor and mentor. It has never before been so relevant than in the current, booming entrepreneurial landscape.
As per a study by Techcrunch based on a survey on New York entrepreneurs, “33 per cent of founders who are mentored by successful entrepreneurs went on to become top performers.” This was compared to only 10 per cent who made the cut otherwise.
Looking for a suitable mentor should, therefore, hold as much, or rather, even more importance for entrepreneurs than pitching for angel and VC funding, since a mentor is that one person who helps steer the course for your startup to sail on. So if you stumble at this crucial step, you can’t go too far.
According to Rahul Singhal, Co-founder of Applop, “A mentor has a big role to play in calibrating your tempo, curbing your impatience and helping you keep the faith. A mentor is for you AND your business. With an unbiased point of view, he not only helps to identify your (and your company’s) strengths and weaknesses, but also helps you resolve issues…”
Here are some key factors to keep in mind when seeking a mentor since the fate of your startup eventually rests on him/her:
Shared passion for your business
It is of prime importance that the mentor be invested in your professional growth. Then only will they have a consistent presence throughout your bumpy ride as an entrepreneur. They should have a genuine interest to pass on their knowledge and also be upfront and brutally honest with you in terms of their opinion.
This requires someone who is knowledgeable, compassionate and possesses the good attributes of a teacher. You will need their constructive criticism or a reality check most of time. But at other times you will also need their validation and encouragement of what you are doing.
Industry knowledge and connections
A generalist mentor will do exactly what the word expresses – general guidance – which can take you through your daily motions. However, for the last mile when you are likely to get stuck, it is a mentor with good industry experience who can help you get till the finish line. Their industry insight and necessary connections in the ecosystem (which are usually the game changers for any startup) will help in your problem solving and seizing new opportunities. Further, if they are experts in your field, you can lean on their experience to maximise your potential much faster than usual.
A mentor who expects compensation and recognition for their time will never be the real thing. They should be helping you out simply because of their passion to make others succeed and give back to the ecosystem. Also, since you will only seek mentorship from someone who is better than you and has already made their mark in the business world, why would they want your money?
Strong analytical and problem solving skills
The path of an entrepreneur is fraught with difficulties, and therefore he/she deserves all the support they can get in this difficult journey. Having a mentor who possesses strong analytical and problem solving skills will help you take intellectually sound decisions. A real mentor should be able to fill the gaps left by your skill set and knowledge base. A lot of times they will be a sounding board before you launch new ideas or programmes, with accurate feedback to enable proactive and smooth management.
Sense of commitment and mutual respect
It’s important that the mentor is committed to your success in the long run and is willing to devote his time to take you there. Another important point is that they should also be available when you need them rather than being available only at their convenience. Also, a mutual liking is critical. There is no point being connected to a powerful, well connected mentor who treats you with impatience and scorn and is unduly aggressive. Boundaries of mutual respect must be maintained for a long term relationship.
A good mentor is one who values other peoples work and is willing to share their own success with others. Their ability to motivate you and impart positivity will fuel your growth much faster than if you were to do it alone. Finally, this is a two way relationship so nurture it the best way you can to reap the long term benefits.
This article, entitled “5 things that startups should look for in a mentor“, originally appeared on e27.