Many startups make the mistake of thinking that if only they had an abundance of cash, all their problems would be over, their startup would grow into a large and successful business and all would be well with the world! Well, the reality is that as much as cash and financial investment can be a big bonus, it won’t necessarily determine whether or not a business will succeed or not. There are all sorts of other factors to consider. One thing however which can really help make or break a startup is having some input by someone else. Getting advice, feedback and constructive criticism from someone who’s been there, done that and well, you know the rest, can be invaluable. However finding that person, or mentor isn’t always that easy. We’ve put together a few basic tips for Finding a Business Mentor that hopefully will steer you in the right direction - one way and every way!
Ask people you know It’s always easiest to start here. Use your own network of acquaintances and see if there are any potential mentors staring you in the face! What you are looking for though is someone who not only understands your business and who gets your idea, but also who knows the realities of the business world and isn’t afraid to reveal them. A good mentor will tell you some harsh truths at times, will tell you of the pitfalls and all the ‘down sides’ as it were. If you do choose a mentor from within your own network, make sure it’s someone who can do this. Likewise, make sure that you can take the criticism when it undoubtedly will come - the better you know someone, sometimes the harder this can be to take, so beware!
Get recommendations Like with many other things in life, references and recommendations can go a long way. The same applies with mentors. Why not ask some other startups in your area or network if they have used a mentor or mentoring service and what their thoughts are. If they are in the same industry or market sector as you, all the better. Finding a mentor through personal recommendation like this may prove really beneficial as if someone else can personally vouch for the advice, support and guidance that they received from a mentor there can be no better advertisement.
Use a Mentoring Association The last few years have seen a rise in dedicated online mentoring platforms and in organisations with a mission to promote mentoring, such as Horsesmouth, Mentorsme and Rockstar to name but a few. All generally have websites detailing the types of mentoring services that they undertake, profiles on their mentors, as well as testimonials from satisfied clients. Some offer free mentoring services, others require a fee or subscription. Either way, take some time out to research these sites before committing to anything.
Try Government backed options Many local economic development bodies and enterprise agencies offer mentoring services or can point you in the right direction for services in your local area. Again the advantage with this is that you may actually know someone who has availed of their services who can give you a more objective view on the real value of the mentoring on offer. Some of these mentoring schemes may be related to national initiatives such as The Prince’s Trust or Prime, or may be on offer as part of business accelerator programmes. It’s essential to do your research first, don’t simply rely on the PR spin of what the benefits may be. If you are considering using the services of a mentor, you have to find one that’s right for you and you will know better than anyone who that is likely to be.
Got any suggestions for using mentoring services? Perhaps you’ve been a mentor yourself? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Why not let us know over at the forum...