As a startup, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. An idea may be brilliant, according to you, but where’s the external perspective that will keep you from falling hard? What you need is someone with plenty of experience in the startup world, preferably someone from your own sector who can show you the ropes and make you learn from his/her mistakes. A mentor, to be precise.
‘Surely, that kind of advice and support can’t be free, right?’ you may think to yourself.
And ‘NO!’ is what we have to say to that. There are people in this world who’d love nothing more than to help a struggling entrepreneur. Once they’ve been through something as hard as starting up and taking off, there’s a sense of kinship that is felt with other entrepreneurs who are or will be in the same boat as they once were.
Once you find that person for yourself, you are likely to revere him and not be sure of how to maintain the relationship.
‘Should I call him again?’ ‘Is he expecting money?’ ‘Should I give him a share of my equity as gratitude?’ ‘It’s best to leave him alone, he’s done enough for me..’ are some of the thoughts that may flood your perplexed head with regards to managing the relationship.
Here’s 8 ways to make the most of your relationship with a Mentor:
- Use your mentor as a sounding board – feel free to bounce your ideas off him/her.
- Be open minded. Your mentor is not your spouse or significant other who has promised to stand by your every decision. Their purpose is to push you and critique you if need be. Allow them to play their role well.
- Ask questions. If you’re unsure of anything, don’t hesitate to ask questions for fear of being ridiculed. If you don’t find that safe place with your mentor, you may lose out and end up making a fool of yourself in front of other people, may be even investors, or worse, not learning enough.
- Don’t be afraid to follow up with your mentor if they were supposed to get back to you about something. Remember what was said in How I Met Your Mother? – In every relationship, there is a Reacher and a Settler. The reality is that in your relationship with your mentor, you’re the Reacher. So reach out to your mentor. Don’t put off getting advice or information from them for fear of being “too pesky”. If they feel you’re getting that way, they’ll let you know.
- Do your homework. Nothing annoys a mentor more than someone who isn’t diligent about the work that they do. If a mentor has asked you to come prepared for your next meeting with something, be prepared.
- Use their network. A mentor is someone who has diverse experience and a larger network. Use it to make connections, gain customers and spread the word around about your idea.
- Stay away from financial transactions. If your mentor is helping you out pro bono, keep it that way. There’s nothing worse than a good relationship gone bad because of money, you could have either valued the relationship for too less or someone got greedy.
- Don’t blindly follow everything your mentor says. Now having said everything that I have above, at the end of the day, it is YOUR idea and you have a dream that you’re following. The mentor is a third party and may not understand it completely. Use his advice with caution, selecting what you think will work for you and discarding what you think won’t work.
Hope this proves to be some healthy advice for all those who are entering into mentoring relationships with people.