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Building a Startup is not an easy journey. It may sometimes look like it, only to find yourself the next day in the middle of a pile of problems you have no idea how to solve. Asking advice from your friends or family members is unlikely to be a solution. This is why mentors can be the saving line for most Startups. Assuming you have already built your idea, or at least outlined it so that it can be presented to partners and investors, it is time to reach out to those who can provide not only financial help, but also guidance in your future life as an entrepreneur. There are many inspirational people around the world you can choose mentors from, but the idea of sitting down with Richard Branson, for example, to explain him your problems and get a solution that will fix everything is most likely, only a dream. At the same time, a mentor is not your best friend, unless he has become a millionaire before turning 21. But where, and most important, how do you choose mentors? How do you choose a person to be the one you look up to? How do you make a person believe in you and your idea enough to spend time and analyze it, so that he can provide solutions? These are all big questions that need an answer, but we must take things one step at a time:
1. You can have more than 1 mentor
There is no person expert in all the areas, so reaching people that are true experts in each one is better that just reaching one who knows a bit about everything. A mentor should provide true expertise, backed up by experience and positive results in the past. Make sure not to get entangled with people who think that they “know-it-all”. This is the most dangerous companionship for your Startup and it should be avoided.
2. Experience Comes With Age
Unless you are 50 years old and have only just found your entrepreneurial voice, it is likely that most mentors will be older than you. And with age, comes a background in the area you want to work. Experience is gained by living and confronting situations personally, not just reading about them. An older mentor is more likely to have encountered problems and developed solutions that can be scaled or attached to yours. Keep this in mind when you have to choose mentors and you will succeed.
3. Mentoring – Lifetime Relationship
A mentoring situation is different than the one you have with your advisory board. It evolves as any other social relationship, except this time there are higher risks than getting, let’s say, your heart broken. You cannot force someone into becoming your mentor, no matter how much you appreciate them and desire this. You have to convince, you have to conquer. And the best way to do this is with passion and complete honesty.
The most important aspect in a mentoring relationship is complete honesty. No one is able to guide and help if the situation presented is a lie, or if some pieces are missing. You have to be completely honest with your mentor, without the fear of judgment. At the same time, you must receive complete honesty in your mentor and the power for him to speak bluntly. You want the truth spoken directly, without any covers.
5. Give, then Ask
You cannot go up to a person and say: “Will you be my mentor, please?” The relationship needs to flow in a natural way. And since no one will give up their free time to spend it with a needy newbie, you must give something in return. Offer your services and build things up before asking for advice. A mentor can be a business friend, to put it this way, but you have to remember that choosing a mentor from your competition is not advisable. Having the same areas of interest is good, but don’t make the relation too personal. A mentor is supposed to stay emotionally independent; otherwise feelings might could his judgment.
6. Don’t Burden A Mentor
If you are going to create a long-time mentoring relationship, make sure not to burden your mentor. No one wants to only be asked for solution. Make sure to eliminate all the possibilities before asking for help. On the other side, share every successful event with your mentor. If you have not chosen a certain one yet, share it with those you feel are interested and analyze who rejoices the most about the news. Make them feel important, it will help.
7. Choose Mentors Wisely
Making the right decision when you have to choose mentors is not an easy task. It involves building a relation filled with responsibilities on both sides, and few people are willing to do this. Do not avoid reaching out to members from your advisory boards, but make sure they are the type of people that are willing to help, rather than make decisions that can affect you. Respect the people around you, respect your mentors and make them feel proud of your accomplishments. Make them feel they have contributed to your success and you will have them by your side for a long time.