In a startup, as well as the founder, there are a number of other key players that can influence the success of a business.
And one of the most influential of these key players is a startup mentor.
Extremely successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs once relied on the guidance of their mentors for help and advice.
This is proof, if you needed it, that a startup mentor can be the difference between success and failure. They can also be a huge support to new business owners – especially in the early stages.
A great startup mentor can be an invaluable asset to your business, which is why we thought we’d share our tips and advice for finding the perfect mentor for your business.
Read on to find out more.
What are startup mentors and why do you need one?
Mentoring has always been important to human success, dating all the way back to the Roman times. And nowadays, there are lots of different types of mentors out there.
A startup mentor is someone who has been in your position and has successfully founded their own business. They must also have experience in your industry or perhaps expertise in the specific area of growth that your business is struggling with the most. For example, marketing or sales.
A startup mentor is there to help you grow the business, avoid pitfalls, make tough decisions, and in some cases, they might even be an investor. There are several reasons that you should consider a startup mentor for your business and these are:
- It’s important that you’re always learning if you hope to drive your startup forward and a mentor can teach you a lot
- A startup mentor can help you to build the right business model
- They can also help you to put together the right team
- If you need to test your product and/or service and get market validation, a mentor can support you in this process. If not, they can at least introduce you to a possible partner for your pilot
- They can help you to build your network by introducing you to their connections
- They can advise you on the best way to scale up your business and can share real-life lessons that they learnt the hard way
- They can assist with fundraising by either investing themselves or introducing you to possible investors from their network
But don’t just take our word for it! Most entrepreneurs that have worked with a mentor report strong growth and a prolonged life for their business. Therefore, a startup mentor could be the (not so) secret key to your success.
The key traits to look for in a great startup mentor
In order to help you find the perfect startup mentor for your business, it helps to know what key traits you should look out for. Below, we’ve put together a list of these traits so you can boost your chances of finding the right person.
Unfortunately, startups don’t come without problems, and therefore, you want someone that can overcome these challenges with you. You also need someone who can highlight the pain points of your business and help you to solve these problems as effectively as possible.
You need a startup mentor that is not only able to advise you and explain things clearly, but you also want someone that listens to you carefully.
A successful mentor got where they are by building and maintaining a strong network of contacts. Therefore, you want someone that is always expanding their network and can forge strong relationships.
A startup mentor would have been in your position at one time. Therefore they’ll need to have had an entrepreneurial spirit to help them achieve their goals.
From helping you with your initial idea to offering market insights, a mentor with an entrepreneurial background can help your business to grow.
And of course, perhaps the most obvious trait they need is strong industry experience and expertise. Otherwise, how can they help you with specific and actionable insights?
Generic advice and ideas won’t do.
5 ways to find a startup mentor
Now that you have a better idea of what traits you should be looking for in a startup mentor, we can look at how to find one. Below are five ways you can find the right mentor for your business.
1. Determine your needs
The first thing you need to do on your search for a startup mentor is to determine your needs.
Having a better understanding of exactly what it is your business needs and what you require from a mentor makes it much easier to find the right one. You can determine your needs by asking yourself questions like:
- Do I need a mentor to help me with my marketing strategy?
- Do I need help boosting sales?
- Am I looking for investment?
- Do I need advice on financial planning?
- Am I looking for market insights and industry connections?
Once you have determined this, it’s much easier to find a startup mentor for your business.
2. Search your industry
Growing your network is crucial for the success of your business and what better time to start than when you’re on the search for a mentor. Searching your industry means you can find someone with the right experience. And there are several ways you can do this.
One way is attending industry events. Another is to make the most of professional networking sites like LinkedIn. You could even turn to dedicated sites like Micromentor to help you meet people in your industry and find some great business opportunities.
Finally, consider business incubators and accelerations programmes. These offer access to great advisors that you can reach out to and learn from.
3. Look for someone with a proven track record
You want your startup mentor to be experienced. Therefore it pays to look for someone with a proven track record. Start by looking into the background of potential mentors and then looks for any reviews or testimonials that have been written about them.
You could even reach out to businesses they’ve worked with in the past and ask what their experience was like.
This will help you to find a mentor with a high success rate and one which you know can achieve great results.
4. Reach for the stars
Often, entrepreneurs that are at a later stage in their career are happy and willing to help startups. This is because they were in their position once and they know how much they relied on the support and advice of others. Or perhaps how much they struggled without it.
So why not dream big and do some cold outreach to entrepreneurs you have always looked up to?
You can do this by engaging with them on social media and platforms like LinkedIn. You should share and like their posts, as well as leaving thoughtful comments or questions. This can help you to strike up a conversation with them.
Alternatively, be bold and drop them an email or message directly. Even if you’re a little nervous, in most cases, you’ll get an answer – even if that is a no.
And you never know, your bravery could lead to some kind of relationship with someone you’ve admired for years.
5. Look for someone that ticks the right boxes
Finally, we mentioned some of the key traits that you need to look out for in a good startup mentor, but there are also some other important aspects you need to consider to ensure you choose the right one.
So, on your search for the perfect mentor, look out for:
- Someone who fills in your missing skillset
- Someone who evaluates your ideas and gives honest feedback
- Someone who holds you accountable and makes sure you’re reaching your goals
- Someone who has similar core values to you and your business
After all, you don’t need a mentor that you have baseless conversations with or that largely leaves you to your own devices. You want someone that encourages and pushes you. Someone that offers up advice and starts meaningful conversations.
This is the key to finding a mentor that will help your business to thrive.
Are you ready to find the perfect mentor for your startup?
So if you’re hoping to find the perfect mentor for your startup, follow our tips and advice above. Remember, startup mentors are there to offer support and advice, as well as to help you build your business model, grow your network and raise funds where needed.
The ideal mentor will be a good listener, problem solver and networker. They will also embody the entrepreneurial spirit and have industry expertise.
And when the time comes to actually find your mentor, it’s important that you:
- Determine your needs
- Search and network in your industry
- Look for someone with a proven track record who ticks all the right boxes
- Be brave and reach out to business owners you look up to
By understanding what you want in a startup mentor and knowing how to look for this, you’re more likely to find the perfect mentor to help your business grow and become successful.
About the author:
Andrius Olechnovičius is a Startup Sales Coach for B2B SaaS startups and FinTechs with his consultancy ValueMakers.co. Andrius has worked with various startups (including startups from SWG portfolio) helping them to achieve 10-20% mom growth by building data driven predictable & scalable outbound sales processes. Andrius is also a sales mentor at Startup Wise Guys.