Start-ups and entrepreneurs can benefit from working with a mentor to gain valuable insight and perspective from that person’s experience.
Mentors can provide advice and training, as well as being a good sounding board for your strategy and ideas.
Incubators, accelerators and start-up programs like Escape The City: Idea Accelerator and Virgin StartUps can be extremely helpful in providing access to mentors. I think it’s incredibly important and can be hugely beneficial for start-ups to attend a number of networking events as well, in addition to approaching potential mentors directly via platforms like LinkedIn.
On top of the more obvious benefits that come with finding an experienced person who has mentored before, industry-specific experience is beneficial. Try identifying where you may have gaps in your knowledge and experience, then finding a mentor that can help with those areas – which could be anything from management to marketing – is a sensible starting point.
Entrepreneurs can benefit from mentors from different industries as well as those that have experienced a similar journey to the potential of yours. It is important to identify your goals of what you want to achieve from the relationship, and then to identify that mentor based on those requirements.
What to expect from your experience can vary significantly depending on what you want to get out of it.
“Try identifying where you may have gaps in your knowledge and experience, then finding a mentor that can help with those areas”
A whole year (12 months) is a good target to aim for in terms of how long you work with them, but it can last significantly longer. It can be split into stages, which may change the frequency of meetings. Be open to outgrowing your mentor if your requirements change over time.
Making the most of meetings
For the first meeting you should set clear goals of what you want to achieve and what areas you need help with, while being open to the view of the mentor. It is really important to do your research about the mentor ahead of the meeting and show you have prepared to get the most out of it.
It’s also essential to have frequent meetings, arranged in advance, that last a minimum of an hour. At the same time, be respectful and understanding that the mentor is likely to be busy – and is taking valuable time and effort to help.
Put the effort into building a relationship, but if you feel like the relationship isn’t going to be a beneficial one, it’ll save you both time if you call it and move on.
Lucas London is a small business mentor and general manager of Airtasker.