Building a successful startup is all about finding the right fit – the right co-founder, the right team and the right investors. Oftentimes, one of the most important things is finding the right mentor, especially for a first-time founder. Entrepreneurship can be a tough and emotional journey and nothing beats having the guiding hands of an experienced mentor that has gone through a lot of what you might be facing and is willing to give the best advice whenever necessary. It can be tempting to believe that you don’t have time for mentoring because you’re too busy building your business but investing in a mentor is a critical step in the growth of your business.
Finding a mentor can be a bit difficult if you’re unsure of what you’re looking for, here are six tips that will guide you as you search for the right mentor:
Before you go out to find a mentor, identify your goals as a startup founder. This will narrow down the pool of potential mentors because you should be looking for someone who wants the same things you want and has substantial achievements in the field you’re in. By sharing a common goal with your mentor, you can work towards shared success. Maybe you both have a goal to own your companies one day. Whatever the common goal is, it’s important to be on the same page and path toward growth.
Find Out What Is Expected Of You
Formal entrepreneurial education is hard to come by and so finding the right mentor can be an invaluable learning experience. Mentors tend to not only be knowledgeable but to have an understanding of how to best foster growth and uncover potential. They are able to advise you on choosing a co-founder for your startup and building your early team. If you trust your mentor, then ask what they feel you should be doing, and make doing that your goal.
Identify The Gaps In Your Knowledge
When you set out to find a mentor, you need to target someone with a specific set of skills, not just a good business sense. Try to find a mentor whose skills are complementary to what you bring to the table. Identify the skills and experience you need from a mentor, starting with the gaps in your own experience. As you look to formalize the relationship with a mentor, make it clear what you are requesting from them in terms of time commitment and availability.
You can’t expect to stumble upon the perfect mentor so you need to get connected.Technology meetups, hackathons, and industry conferences are optimal environments for discovering your ideal mentor. Once you find someone who can help you achieve your goals, have a genuine conversation with them and let them know what you’re doing, why you’re going to be successful at it, and how you think they could help.
A mentor is very different from any other person that will invest in you and your business. You must learn to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with your mentor and show them work in progress and things you haven’t succeeded at. You have to remind yourself that they are there to massage your marketing and sales plans, help vet potential hires, and weigh in on your prioritized sprints. You need to trust them fully to consider their words when they tell you something won’t work.
Trust Your Instincts
If you meet someone and immediately feel disconnected from them or you feel like you may never be able to trust this person, chances are you’re right and you should stay away from that individual. On the other hand, if you meet someone and immediately connect then they may be good for you and your business. Have a serious discussion with them about what exactly they will bring to your business.
Selecting a mentor is a challenging task and can be overwhelming at times, but if you ask the appropriate questions, the process is easier. By choosing a mentor that has proper experience, is innovative and shares goals and values with you, you can be sure that you two have a good chance for a successful relationship.