According to Parker J Palmer “Mentoring is a mutuality that requires more than meeting the right teacher: the teacher must meet the right student.”
While having a plan to start a company, generally people are faced with doubts, questions and challenges. Against this backdrop, having a mentor or two on board your venture can benefit tremendously. The role of a mentor is multi-faceted, may be formal or informal, and may change or evolve as per the requirements and needs of the entrepreneur. A mentor can be a role model, coach, sounding board, voice of reason, emotional support, counselor, and a trusted resource.
An experienced mentor can:
- Share knowledge and life experiences and provide guidance
- Discuss and help in goal setting
- Help identify resources for the start up
- Provide mentoring on leadership skills
- Provide Technical inputs if required or connect the mentee to the appropriate technical expert
- Provide insight into corporate culture
- Advise on networking opportunities to market the product or service.
How Mentors can add value to startups?
- Strategy or a great idea: The owner should have a substantial knowledge about his products or service. In case of limited knowledge about his services, the owner may not be able to sustain and grow his business. The Mentor can play a vital role in guiding him through the process of choosing the right idea among a host of ideas that may serenade the mentee.
- Market/ Demand: Once a decision is made on what business to start, the next step is to explore the market for the product or services. Certain products will only have a domestic market whereas some of the products will have an international market. A market survey needs to be conducted to identify the specific market for the business both locally and internationally. The analysis of the survey with the help of an experienced mentor will go a long way in planning the right strategy for the startup.
- Costs for setting up the business: It is important to assess the total cost required to set up and run the business successfully. In a capital-intensive business, one has to identify the amount that is required to be spent on land and building, plant and machinery etc. In a retail business for example the owner has to identify the cost of the store, furniture, stationary required as well as cost of office equipment in addition to working capital requirements. This will mainly consist of the inventory which need to be maintained and the credit which is to be extended to the customers.
- Financing: Assessment of financial viability of the business is the next important step. The financing pattern will be mainly by way of capital introduction by the owner and/or borrowed funds. A mentor can throw light on the different methods of raising finance. Approaching angel investors, crowd funding etc., are some of the options for a startup.
- Location for the business: Deciding on the location for the business is a strategic decision. A suitable location goes a long way in making the business successful.
- Staff and manpower: Any business requires efficient and appropriate manpower to succeed. The right mentor can help in the selection process.
- Technology: It is always advisable to invest in the latest technology at the start of your business. Monitoring and efficient use of the technology to deliver the right results is the next step. Technology would include plant and machinery as well as latest office equipment. Choosing optimum software is a challenging task. A technologically advanced business is expected to perform much better in the long run. Mentors can add value in the field of technology.
According to an article published in the business magazine, “Fast company” 75% of the venture based startups fail due to lack of good mentorship and the Lack of general and domain-specific business knowledge in the field of finance, operations, and marketing. Lack of focus and continued commitment, raising too much money too soon may be some of the other reasons for startups to fail.
Almost 70 percent of mentored businesses survive for more than five years, which is double the rate of non-mentored small businesses over that same period.
Mentoring in the initial stages of the startups will help businesses increase the chances of success.
How can startups benefit from Mentors?
- A mentor can hold a mirror to your business: he can assess the state of your business and the direction in which it is headed. He will bring in an unbiased point of view.
- A mentor can identify what is right and what is wrong with your business and will help in fixing things that needs to be fixed. If there is something wrong with the business (such as a weak process, poor accounting standards, and a bad marketing plan) the mentor will point it out to you and nudge you to take corrective action.
- The mentor will pull you back a step every now and then, and make you see the bigger picture. He will help you look at the changes that are happening around you, which may have a bearing on your business. For instance, changes in consumer mindset, distribution channels, technology, law, etc. could all affect business and so, should be constantly factored into your planning.
- A mentor will help you in getting professional contacts such as domain experts, service providers, and potential employees. For instance, your business may need a website designer, an auditor, contacts in prospective client companies and an event manager, not to mention an investor. The mentor can make a few calls and put you in touch with the relevant agencies and people.
- A substantial value system and work ethic are most important to a fledgling organization. If set up early, they can take the organization a long way. They help maintain a clean and healthy working environment. A mentor will share his professional value system with you and to the extent relevant, and get you to incorporate it in your organization.
- Mentors bring in collaborative experience in specific industries and help build a business strategy around the gathered analytics.
- Mentors help to build up several startup businesses and can avoid anticipated pitfalls.
- Mentors can help you layout the plans for solving particularly pressing issues in the industries.
- Mentor can encourage entrepreneurs and startup companies by helping them make smarter decisions and put them on a growth path.
A mentor has a crucial role to play in providing the much needed guidance and experiential knowledge sharing to help startups grow in a dynamic environment.
“Mentoring is a two-way street, you get out what you put in”- Steve Washington
Henry, P. (2017, February 18). Why Some Startups Succeed (and Why Most Fail). Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/288769
Why your startup needs a mentor? (2014, May 19). Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://yourstory.com/2014/05/startup-needs-mentor/
Morris, R. (2015, March 22). Mentors Are The Secret Weapons Of Successful Startups. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://techcrunch.com/2015/03/22/mentors-are-the-secret-weapons-of-successful-startups/