Tag Archives: mentor

Selecting the Correct Startup Mentor


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.

Key Criteria

  • 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.

Sector Knowledge

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.

Location Network

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.


Maximising the value of your mentor

With over 40,000 mentors in the UK, we certainly have a great resource for entrepreneurs. However, as with many things in life, it’s about the process of using the resource rather than the sheer numbers which ensures the benefit.

After managing a national mentoring solution for over two years, with over 400 mentors, 4200 mentees the key factors are developing an environment of trust, openness and diversity on one hand and on the other accountability, skill development and action orientation on the other.

The first step is to set the limits, boundaries and scope for the mentor/mentee relationship. In many cases this will be their first mentoring experience and as such they both need to know what each person should and should not expect. This then allows them to reduce the amount of storming before the norming and hopefully bring about productive business growth. This involves providing an education seminar followed by a selection workshop which creates enthusiasm and drive for the new relationship.

Every relationship has a start, beginning and end and understanding this is also very important in ensuring everyone gets the most form it. The best business mentoring matches the mentee’s stage of business, the industry sector and the location of the user. Having more than one mentor is also important for younger mentees as it ensure they do not rely on one person and seeks advice from many quarters, thus forming their own opinion.

All organisations needs to know what is happening with their customer at any one time and therefore statistical collection is important for both reporting and improving the service. This is why online mentoring solutions are important in being able to manage, monitor and report the status of the network. I have also seen that our mentee target audience has become accustomed to adding their life onto the internet and getting feedback, where else would they do it?

Mentors help create such amazing companies and get a lot out of the experience and this is the main reason many organisation are now considering adding their employees to these schemes, helping develop their staff to understand both other business leaders but also understand how business itself works.  Therefore a structured approach for your mentors is benefiting in many ways.

If you do not have a mentor then please go and find one.

If your business does not conduct mentoring for all staff then please implement it and it will create an amazing amount of value and loyalty.

If you want to give something back then join a mentoring scheme and enjoy all the new entrepreneurs you meet.