Being successful in business is challenging. And being successful in a startup as an entrepreneur can be even more difficult. But with the right mentorship program, new business owners and entrepreneurs can accelerate their learning curve and find a smoother path to success.
This reality is further highlighted by the fact that as high as 70% of Fortune 500 companies have an in-house mentoring program. And studies by Deloitte indicate that millennials who have a mentor may be as high as 61%.
Mentorship – A Great Team Sport
So, with numbers like that, what is the anatomy of a great mentorship? Well, for one thing, it’s a team effort, or as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. To build the perfect mentorship suited for both mentor and mentee, here are some ideas to consider:
1. Ask the Right Questions – Asking the right questions, in the beginning, is a good start. But not just technical questions or even questions about the business. Entrepreneurs are personally invested in their business beyond just financially. A mentor can gauge maturity, clarity, and purpose by asking questions to determine motive and life goals. There will be plenty of time for nuts-and-bolts questions such as projected sales, technical specifications, and market plans. But by asking the mentee what makes them happy, gives them joy, and what they want to do and accomplish, mentors can understand the internal drive and establish a better place to start.
2. Find the Right Format – Traditional mentorships were face-to-face and one-on-one. But as technology and business strategy have changed, the format of mentorship has changed too. The logic is simple, while you may be able to find a mentor who is perfectly suited and right down the street, there is no need to choose one based explicitly on geography. The best mentor may be a continent away. Both mentors and mentees can use technology to leverage experience through virtual and online mentorships, group mentoring sessions, and mentoring software to help them find the perfect match. Many academic and accelerator programs even help new business leaders self-match from available staff.
3. Recognize mentorship as a Business Strategy – Mentorship should not be approached as a class, seminar, or a necessary evil. Both mentor and mentee should approach it as a business strategy. This means setting specific goals and recognizing that it is a value-added element of business just as much as marketing, research, and new sales channels. It also means that both mentor and mentee should candidly discuss both benefits and challenges and find a path to value.
4. Write it Down – This doesn’t mean taking notes. It means that there should be a written mentorship agreement. This helps set expectations, schedules, and goals. It also helps define the structure and tenor of the mentorship. By specifying the path that both mentor and mentee will follow, both are accountable for their end of the bargain. It helps build a faster path to trust and facilitates the chemistry required to make the plan work.
5. Learn to “Meta-Listen” – Sometimes, new business leaders may articulate one thing and mean another. That doesn’t mean they are coy or deceptive. It means that often subtexts exist that can help a mentor understand what they are really struggling for. By listening not just to what is said but what is not said or what is coloring the underlying conversation, mentors can get to the root of bottlenecks and challenges the entrepreneur is facing.
6. Learn to Drive – Almost everyone who drives at some point did so with a driver’s ed instructor sitting next to them. It would have done the young driver no good to sit in the passenger seat while the teacher drove and told them what they were doing and why. The student had to do the driving. Mentorship relies on the same dynamic. The mentee should be driving while the mentor offers careful feedback and assistance from the passenger seat. This helps build confidence, trust, and practical business skills while also allowing the entrepreneur the comfort of having the experienced driver in the seat nearby.
The right mentor can add value, confidence, and consistency to a new entrepreneur’s journey. And it can accelerate the learning curve to better prepare them for challenges that lie ahead…challenges that can make them more competitive and knowledgeable. But that means finding the right mentor that fits.
The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College offers a wide range of services and assistance to new entrepreneurs. These include training, funding, networking, and mentorship. HYBEC’s mentorship programs include both group and one-on-one coaching. These mentors are diverse and experienced across a wide range of industries. Because they have built successful businesses, they are ideally positioned to give back to mentees searching for their own path to success. To find out how HBEC and Georgian College can help you find the right mentor for your journey, contact us today.