4 Myths About Your Startup Mentors
As a founder, you can do a lot — business accounts one minute, social media marketing the next, and then pitching over lunch. Entrepreneurship requires wearing many hats, but great entrepreneurs know when to ask for help.
This is where the power of a mentor comes in. (And hopefully, I shouldn’t need to explain the benefits of working with someone more experienced.)
In recent years, mentoring programmes in the startup scene have been on the rise, and they range from semi annual female founder programmes like those of Santander to more informal mentoring within your local coworking space.
As the leader of your business, it is critical though to not get sucked into the traps and myths of mentoring.
Myth #1: Their experience means they know more about your business.
Having a third party perspective is refreshing. Often times mentors can poke holes in your business model, challenge your dynamics, and work at resolving internal team disputes.
However, even mentors with years of knowledge do not know everything. They know a lot, don’t get me wrong, but that does not mean they are omniscient.
As a founder, you know your business best.
Your venture is its own entity, and whenever your gut is leading one way but a mentor is pushing you another, stop and listen. Do not hesitate to respectfully decline feedback or stick with what you know in your heart is best.
Myth #2: Their networks will bring you value.
Mentors can open up doors to industries and networks that are unreachable to you as a new founder.
With the years of experience, of course they can have extensive networks. But, this does not mean that they provide instant value.
Introductions are useful, but you as a founder should steer the relationships. It takes follow through — and this is where I see founders drop the ball. Like anything, it takes time, and probably 3 or 4 follow up emails to make the most of them.
Myth #3: Mentors know how to be mentors.
Though most mentors have some sort of training or guidance before working with you as a startup, not all do. This is quintessential example when it comes to a college professors — some people can be completely brilliant and talented, but they cannot communicate a lesson or research even if their lives depended on it.
Not to be dramatic, but it is also true for mentors. Having a high profile mentor means nothing if there is no relationship cultivated or if it is a one-sided relationship.
Mentors are learning from you, just as you are learning from them. It is important as a founder that you spearhead the conversation, lead with questioning, and vet anyone who is interested in being in your business’s corner.
Myth #4: The more mentors the better.
Having mentors in respective areas of your business makes sense. I call it building out your dream support board, which means have expertise in technology or product, teamwork/leadership, marketing, and industry or niche knowledge.
But more does not equal better.
More just means more opinions, which can lead to mentor whiplash.
Some mentors are better for drive by questions, email touch-bases, and one off calls, whereas others will be able to grow with you in a more formalized mentoring capacity. Remember these are the kind of relationships (and we all know relationships take work!), so taking on more than you can manage can result in some burnt bridges.
“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” — Maya Angelou, Poet and Civil Rights Activist
Why do I care about this so much?
I have been named a finalist in Mentor of the Moment finalist for Startup Magazine and have even taken courses on mentoring. And, I have had wonderful mentors (as well as not so wonderful ones) and they helped get me to where I am today.
So if you have any questions on mentoring, don’t be a stranger.
Follow me for more news on the ins and outs of startups, and if you want to discuss business mentoring and coaching, check out my website www.kaitlinfritz.co.uk