• Team Business-360°

How to spot the right mentor for your startup?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

When Richard Branson was launching Virgin Atlantic he reached out to Sir Freddie Laker, the pioneer of modern aviation, for advice on how to set up his business. By drawing on Sir Laker’s vast experience Richard Branson was able to build Virgin Atlantic to a 2.5 billion British pound business from scratch. In fact, mentorship is considered the biggest cheat sheet in business to reach your goals faster with less stress. And studies show that mentored businesses are more likely to survive than those who go it alone.

For the mentor, it’s a simple matter of retracing their entrepreneurial journey and sharing its key lessons with the mentee. For the mentee, it’s a playbook of pitfalls and best practices. One that you cannot do without in your entrepreneurial journey. However, not every successful business leader is a great mentor just like every mentor may not be a successful business leader. Knowing how to spot one right for you requires a fine balance between knowing your needs and knowing what a mentor can offer.

Always start with a self-evaluation. Take a very close look at your needs –what is it you need from a mentor? Is it motivation? domain knowledge? expanded network? business acumen?. Once you have zeroed in on your need list then it makes the work of looking for the right mentor easier and faster. Step two is to look for traits which will address your needs, typically someone with experience in your line of business, a proven track record of success, a problem solver and has a robust network of likeminded people who can be potential investors or customers. The final step is to scan your environment to spot your mentor. You could find him/her in your alumni network, community or in a mentoring network of repute.

Activating your mentor support and nurturing it is all on you as a mentee. Having found your right fit, you will need to get proactive in initiating the contact – invite him/her for coffee, have an informal chat about your situation and build the comfort level crucial to taking things forward. Once the relationship is established you will need to invest in nurturing it by providing regular feedback on your progress and staying in touch even when the need for advice is not immediate.

Above all, you will need to make yourself worth mentoring. The mentors joy lies in seeing results from his/her advice given to you, make sure you don’t waste it and deliver on your mentors investment in you.

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