Entrepreneurs and new business leaders are always looking for a way to move forward faster. With a wealth of ideas and a sound business plan, they are ready to take on an existing industry or poised to create a new one.
But just because the idea is sound doesn’t mean the entrepreneur is skilled in all areas required to run a successful company. Life experience, business experience, and time management are often the enemy of a new entrepreneur and can bog down the process of building a company.
Finding a mentor can help new leaders work through the areas where they lack experience or are unsure of what to do. With the right mentor, these entrepreneurs can gain knowledge and set goals to navigate the execution of their business idea and the daily tasks of running an operation.
Finding the right mentor can be a challenge. But when it works, the relationship – and the business – can thrive. Conversely, when it doesn’t, the results can be unpleasant or even disastrous. Here are a few considerations of the good, the bad, and the ugly for entrepreneurs seeking a mentor.
On the positive side, mentors can help develop new business leaders by sharing their own experiences. Benefits include:
Forging Professional Relationships
As experienced business leaders, mentors have access to a broad and diverse network of industry professionals. Mentees who gain access to these networks can accelerate the organization’s growth within their chosen industry.
Fast Spread of Knowledge
Having an experienced mentor with a steady hand means that entrepreneurs learn faster than their peers. Leaning on the mentor’s experience, mentees can uncover real-world use cases and practical examples that outweigh academic theoretical business training. This helps them learn faster.
Not knowing what lies ahead can be scary. This is especially problematic when an entrepreneur “doesn’t know what they don’t know.” With an experienced mentor, many bad decisions can be avoided. Likewise, uncertainty can be turned into clarity by working through the relationship on real-life daily issues. This results in more confidence in decision-making and more confidence in running the day-to-day aspects of the operation.
One of the critical benefits of mentorship is that the mentor offers candid feedback. Having walked the path, they can provide positive critique, informed opinion, and tactful suggestions in feedback because they have been in the entrepreneur’s shoes.
Entrepreneurs are frequently pulled in several directions because new companies often have limited resources or limited capital. Having to break away from product development to address an HR issue or vendor negotiation that they are untrained for can result in stops and starts. With feedback and input from the right mentor, new business leaders can learn to delegate better, push tasks to third parties, or better manage their time to smooth out the bumps in their task lists.
There are some cons to mentorship as well. And if the selection of mentor and mentee isn’t fully vetted or if the goals and expectations are not laid out, there can be some harmful effects. These include:
One pitfall to avoid is dependency. If the relationship is not structured correctly or expectations are not set out clearly, the entrepreneur may depend on the mentor. Dependency will lead to less confident decisions and slow the learning curve of the mentee.
Sometimes, the pace of the relationship can be off. Mentees may feel constrained and ready to move forward because they are capable of intuitive leaps, whereas the mentor may want to pursue a slower, steadier pace.
Not a Magic Bullet
One of the critical values of mentorship is that it allows mentees to learn to run the business and make good decisions independently. They are expected to do the work required to grow while the mentor supplies feedback and advice. Entrepreneurs should avoid going into a relationship where they believe that a mentor will solve their problems. While they can help get the new leader there, the mentee must execute and work their way through issues.
Sometimes, relationships just don’t work. When this happens, they can turn ugly. Some things to watch out for include:
Some mentors have extensive experience in business that stretches over decades. But if their people skills are not good, that experience can’t be transmitted as well as it could be. Mentors should treat mentees like protégés, peers, or partners and not as employees. And bad people skills can make or break a relationship.
Often, both mentor and mentee may have good people skills but are just mismatched in personality. Chemistry is essential, and if the program does not include matching the right people, fundamental personality differences can quickly turn ugly.
Mentorship can help supercharge an entrepreneur’s growth and success. And finding the right mentor is critical. The Henry Bernick Entrepreneur Centre (HBEC) at Georgian college can help match mentors and mentees to avoid the bad and the ugly. They offer experienced staff and community business leaders who can engage mentees with one-on-one coaching. Mentees can gain access to entrepreneurs who have walked their path and are familiar with the elements needed to leverage the good that mentorship can bring for success.
To find out how we can help with your mentoring journey, contact us today.