You may be thinking that words such as ‘mentoring’ and ‘mentorship’ are just part of superfluous management speak and that the concept of having a mentor is in itself nothing but self-indulgent. After all, what effect can a mentor have on your startup other than to drain your time and resources? Actually, a mentor can help a young business in many different ways, even saving you both time and money in the long run. Here are just a few things a mentor will help you with:
1. Plugging Skills Gaps
Ideally, you’ll have assembled a team that covers all the skills you need for your startup. But considering how small most lean startup teams are to begin with, this simply isn’t realistic. Bring in a mentor, however, and at least some of those skills gaps will be able to be plugged. A mentor can coach and guide you and your team in developing new skills and may even be able to recommend specialist guides or tutors to support you further in your learning development. Whilst you’re getting to grips with new competencies, your mentor can also help you source temporary remote freelancers to work on the projects you don’t yet have the aptitude for.
With so much to do when you’re starting up, and so little time and experience, it can be challenging to know what to prioritize. Your mentor can guide you towards balancing your checklist so you do the right tasks in the right order. You’ll be able to seek advice from your mentor on which tasks really matter and are really worth doing early.
A mentor with years, or maybe even decades, of experience behind them will have become a very shrewd business strategist over time. They’ll therefore guide you towards what you should be doing first and/or spending the most time on, as you develop and execute your own business strategy. As a result, you’ll be able to run your company so much more efficiently, right from the off.
3. Making New Connections
No doubt you already have your own network of professional contacts. You will also have your own ideas about which of those contacts will be of use to you in the early days of your business. However, an experienced mentor will have a more extensive network, possibly spread out over a wider geographical area. If they have concentrated experience in one vertical, they may well have hundreds of contacts in that particular industry. Think what possibilities await for you if you can only tap into such a network. If a mentor is able to introduce you to those in the know and people who can really help make things happen for your venture, the rate at which your startup grows could increase dramatically.
4. Building Trust
The presence of a mentor in your team can also help you gain the trust of investors and, more importantly, customers. Any fears that you’re a little too green to be doing this will be abated once outsiders know that you’re taking advice from a voice of experience.
Many investors are wary of new startups because they tend to think inexperienced entrepreneurs are living in Cloud-cuckoo-land and have no contingency plans for when the going gets tough or if there’s an out-and-out crisis. But if they see that there’s a mentor behind the scenes who’s keeping you grounded and steadying the ship, they’ll be much more receptive to your pitch. This is particularly true when you’re lucky to have a mentor experienced in the vertical your startup focuses on – their commitment to you becomes a badge of approval.
In the early days of a new business, it can be hard to keep yourself motivated, especially in the current economic climate. If you don’t have any previous experience of starting up a company, it may seem that everything’s moving a lot slower than you envisaged. You may feel especially isolated if there are only one or two of you in the team, which is most probably the case if you’re running a lean operation.
If you add a mentor to that team, however, the picture begins to look a little brighter. A mentor can use their external influence to give you more perspective and keep you motivated. You can use them as a sounding board for when you’re feeling low. They’ll give you reassurance when you’re heading in the right direction and will give you constructive tips for when you could actually be doing more to move things on a bit quicker.
6. Avoiding Mistakes
It’s often said that we learn from our mistakes, but the problem with that is that you have to make mistakes before you can learn! Or do you? A major benefit of having a mentor on board is that they’ve been there, done that, downloaded the app. They’ve already made the mistakes you’re at risk of making and can therefore pre-empt them before you actually make those same errors. Based on their experiences, they’ll give you guidance on what works and what doesn’t, what to do and what not to do. Yes, it’s character building to learn from mistakes—but it’ll be better for your company in the long run if you sometimes learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of your own.
If you’re thinking about bringing a mentor in to work with your team or looking for advice, find out more about our Mentoring Program here.