Our experience has highlighted the matching of mentor/mentee pairs as the most important factor in the success or otherwise of effective mentoring. Every person who starts a business should have at least one mentor, these people are there to a devil’s advocate and support in development of the business. They are not business advisers or life coaches and therefore are not making decision for the business owner. The business owner is 100% responsible for their own actions. We would typically assign at least two mentors based on the following criteria. The two mentors would be from separate criteria to ensure we provided diverse mentoring support.
- Methods of Working
- Sector Knowledge
- Area of Expertise
- Stage of Business
- Location Network
- Peer or Near Peer Mentors
Methods of Working
Both parties should have expectations and they should set out the process they will follow in dealing with each other. When will they contact each other? What is the communication medium SMS, Email, Telephone or Face to Face, What response time will the other person provide? When is out of hours? What support will they get and what is expected from the mentee? Use the GROW model for mentoring sessions.
Many people want someone to mentor them who has already done it. Someone in the same industry has the network contact to help them move forward faster. They may be diversifying into a new sector and need introductions. The approach that mentors take within a business sector will also have to been taken into account. We find this is one of the fastest ways to develop the mentee’s understanding of the benefits of mentoring.
Area of Expertise
People starting a business may require help with one field, e.g. sources of finance, marketing, IPR, logistics, operations, sales, office, international sales, production, TAX, bookkeeping, website SEO, etc. This field will require mentoring over period of time when the mentor is no longer required and another mentor can be assigned to deal with their new needs.
Stage of Business
Our mentoring solution works on a six stage business growth model which is detailed in Appendix A. It is particularly important to ensure that the mentors understand the importance and nature of each stage and do not jump into suggesting solutions before they have fully appreciated the context and needs of their mentees.
In moving the business forward, the better the foundations within the early stages the better the business opportunities in the later stages. Therefore having specialist mentors for these stages provides the best results.
One of the core resources needed to grow a business is access to a network of like minded people who may be customers, competitors, investors or collaborators and a mentors can be the fastest way of accessing this network. We also find that certain industries have a culture that lends itself to a sustainable network of experts who are willing to ‘put something back’ into the system in the form of mentoring, such a lawyers, accountants and educators.
Peer or Near Peer Mentors
Peer-based activity is regarded as the best way to transfer tacit knowledge critical to business success. This is a very powerful and meaningful proposition in a entrepreneurial social context with the opportunity to develop a sustained and long term relationship.