Many entrepreneurs look to mentorship in early stages. And it only makes sense. As someone with not only years of business experience but who is also an entrepreneur themselves, mentors can provide wisdom, insight, advice, and other valuable information in a company’s formative years.
Business mentors have gone through many of the same struggles and can provide insight that managers from traditional companies cannot because they have not been exposed to the entrepreneurial way of doing things. This allows business mentors a great way to harvest their input, extend your professional network, and develop long-lasting relationships with those who share the same passion of entrepreneurship as you.
Getting Beyond Experience – 10 Mentorship Realities to Consider
The experiences above are just a few of the obvious benefits a business mentor can offer. But there are others you may not have considered as well. And as the saying goes, it’s always good to know what you don’t know. Here are 10 things you may not have known about mentorship:
- Timing is Everything – Mentoring can start at any time for both mentor and mentee. Waiting to find a mentor can mean valuable time lost that could have been more productive with the right mentor.
- Investment is Critical – When a mentor commits time to your company, you should invest in that time wisely. Prepare, come to the table ready to move the ball and hit the next goal. If you are invested and respectful of your mentor’s time, they will be of yours as well.
- Feedback Matters – It's not all war stories and advice. It will include feedback. Honest, and sometimes critical feedback. They’ve made many of these same mistakes as well. And being able to accept critique can help you move forward.
- Building Trust is Paramount – Trust begets trust. Building trust with a mentor is not only ethical as a businessperson, but also an opportunity. By committing to the mentorship, hitting goals and meeting obligations, by taking it seriously, and by being consistent with time spent and time management, a mentor can be an avenue to new opportunities down the road. As trust builds, they may be open to sharing networking contacts from many years’ experience – contacts that can bring valuable business to your new company.
- Selecting Wisely Can Make the Difference – While choosing the right mentor is important, be aware that they are trying to choose wisely in selecting you as well. Your commitment, curiosity, consistency and organization may make the difference in making a program or being selected by a mentor. Remember they are using the same skills to evaluate your capabilities and desirability as a mentee that you sought out when you asked for their help.
- Team Mentorship Works Too – Many people think that a mentor/mentee is two people working together like Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. And while that analogy certainly still applies, it isn’t the only path of value. You may be mentored by several equally experienced mentors in a team. This could be a non-profit association, an academic program geared toward incubation for businesses or even industry sponsored mentor teams that help businesses within a specific industry or discipline. Be open to new variations from the old one-on-one style mentorship.
- Expectations Set the Tone – Your mentor should tell you what the expectations are and set the tone for performance. If your expectations are not realistic or if you don’t understand the value propositions and services the mentor is bringing to the table, the relationship could grind to halt at best and sour at worst. Understanding expectations helps create a shared vision.
- Mentoring Isn’t Coaching – Mentoring is a long-term endeavor based on developing a business leader. It encompasses a wide range of skills and experience that an entrepreneur needs to draw on to bring themselves up to another level. Coaching is performance based and short-term. If your need is coaching, then appropriate channels may not be available to you as an entrepreneur if you are the owner, principal or founder. Mentoring is intended to help someone move their company forward holistically, not on day-to-day operational issues and specific problems.
- Power Should be Balanced – It is easy to be intimidated by someone who has garnered a ton of experience that others find valuable. But power within a mentorship should be balanced. As the mentee, your ideas matter and should be considered. You should be capable and free to develop your own projects within the mentorship and work from a position of mutual professional respect.
- You May be Next – If you are passionate about your projects and your business, a mentor can provide you with valuable experience. That experience will be compounded over the years by your own journey. A productive mentorship may motivate you to become the mentor one day to provide for someone else what a trusted mentor provided for you.
If you are an entrepreneur looking to take your business to the next level, the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian can help. We aid in mentoring for those who want to accelerate their development and move forward.