Successful Entrepreneurs Often Talk About The Benefits Of Mentoring, But How Can It Really Help Those At The Beginning Of Their Entrepreneurial Journey?
By Anoshe Waheed
Back in 2015 Virgin hosted a great initiative about the benefits of mentorship (for both the mentor and mentee) with Dermalogica founder, Jane Wurwand, and Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut, Tim Nash – moderated by Virgin StartUp MD, Mei Shui. MentorSelector has since launched to try to help people find mentors, but also for mentors to find mentees.
This all-star panel shared their incredible experiences and mentoring wisdom and now we’d like to share with you their top tips about how having a mentor can help your business succeed.
1. Understand what a mentor can offer
Try and think about a mentor as your sponsor, a person who can guide and support you, share their experiences, boost your confidence, expand your horizons and act like spokes in a wheel, connecting you to useful people. Make sure you are really specific about what you want from your mentor and don’t treat your time as therapy sessions. Define the parameters of the relationship right at the start to ensure you get what you need.
2. Look for entrepreneurs in your sector
As an entrepreneur you will often doubt yourself and sometimes you’ll just need someone to tell you that you can do it. You need a mentor who has trodden the path before you and knows what the pitfalls might be, as well as encouraging you to take risks. Tim and Jane agreed it’s important to have a mentor who is an entrepreneur, so they can fully understand the unique mind-set and journey that you’re going through. It also helps to have a mentor in a similar industry, particularly if it’s niche, as they can understand the particular nuances exclusive to the industry you’re working in. You might also want different mentors at different stages of your business development.
3. You need to be able to handle the truth
You need a straight-talking mentor – “A mentor is someone who is direct, succinct and who will tell it as it is”, Jane explained. Mentors are there in an advisory capacity, but need to tell you if you’re about to make a big mistake or are heading in the wrong direction. Blunt speaking can save you money and time.
4. Empathy is crucial
A mentor needs to be emotionally invested in your business, and should genuinely want you to succeed. Tim said that mentors need to empathise with how you feel and reassure you by saying, “I know how it feels, keep going and we’ll make it to the other side”. Look for emotional intelligence and test the water with your mentor first. Start with your first session and see how the relationship develops.
5. Experiment in the mentoring lab
Jane stated that chemistry and the right personality mix are essential for healthy mentoring relationships. Much like science, you may need to experiment a little to get results. It’s a two-way relationship, so prepare well and put time and effort into it. But like any relationship, don’t be afraid to leave if it’s just not working out.
6. Mentors DO make a huge difference
While it’s down to you to make your business succeed, a mentor can give you the confidence to take the risks necessary to do it. A mentor brings their own experiences to the table, as well as their connections and networks, which could be much larger than your own. Sometimes it’s not the mentor themselves that is the most valuable asset, but the introductions they make to buyers, suppliers or even another mentor. A lot of people don’t think they have the time to either be a mentor or be mentored, and see this is as a luxury, but you can make it work as long as you make a time commitment that suits you both and it really is worth it.
7. Send the elevator back down
Mentors get enormous personal benefit from mentoring relationships and can learn a huge amount. Jane and Tim have both been incredibly successful in their fields and have used this to launch initiatives to help others succeed. Jane is a mentor herself and has launched FITE, which works to help women to become financially independent in order to become entrepreneurs. Tim set up the Africa Digital Education Trust to enable young Africans achieve an advanced, internationally competitive standard in STEM subjects (although their ‘E’ is English!).
Setting up a new organisation may not be for you, but could you become a mentor? MentorSelector is always looking for new mentors in a variety of fields to help in both career and in life. MentorSelector was designed for people seeking mentorship who just didn’t have the network base of support. The benefits of MentorSelector are not unilaterally for the mentees – but also the Mentors. There are so many benefits of being a mentor – here are a couple of articles about the benefits of mentorship:
As Tim told us: “As long as you have the right mentor, there is no downside to mentoring”, so go ahead and start your mentoring adventure!
If you’re interested in being mentored or in becoming a mentor please look into https://mentorselector.com
This article has been adapted upon an article in www.virgin.com