Mentor: an experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time (Oxford Dictionary).
For aspiring or even experienced entrepreneurs, a mentor is an invaluable source of advice, inspiration, and information. Furthermore, mentorship frequently becomes a mutually beneficial, supportive and long-lasting relationship.
1.Provision of important skills, knowledge, and information
A mentor, by definition, is someone who has extensive experience in a particular field. They have obtained both knowledge and skills that are essential within their sector. The aim is for them to teach what they have learned to their mentee. It follows that this person will have made mistakes due to inexperience along their own journey, and learned from these mistakes. A mentor should have the ability to identify when their mentee is about to make a mistake that they themselves have committed, or have seen committed in the past. They can, therefore, prevent their mentee from making avoidable mistakes before they happen. Additionally, the mentee can learn why their action may have been erroneous, what the potential consequences may have been, as well as similar mistakes to avoid.
2. Ability to see what you cannot
In addition to preventing the repetition of their own specific past mistakes, mentors can identify what their mentee is doing right or wrong from a more general perspective. The ability to ‘see the bigger picture’ and therefore whether the business is going in the right direction is also highly beneficial. Preoccupation with admin, small details and self-doubt often serve as distractions from the bigger picture. Self-doubt is something that every individual has to learn to cope with to some extent. Mentors should be able to offer encouragement and confirmation of whether their mentee is heading in the right general direction.
3. Constructive criticism
Following on from the above points, mentors have the advantage of an abundance of experience. On a specific level, this allows identification of potential mistakes before they are committed. The same goes for mistakes that have already occurred, but more importantly, constructive criticism and how to rectify them.
4. Professional and personal growth
A mentor encourages their mentee to think in particular ways and about certain things that the individual would not have done alone. On both a personal and professional level, leadership and problem-solving skills are developed. This can be through setting goals or setting projects, or simply by offering knowledge and advice. Furthermore, many form lifelong friendships which can be a constant source of support for both mentor and mentee.
5. Offer encouragement
Entrepreneurship is not an easy or straightforward path. Although extremely rewarding, as well as facilitating a ‘be your own boss’ lifestyle, entrepreneurship is a high-risk-high-reward enterprise. It is excessively stressful and many invest entire life savings into their start-ups. Mentors are vital for offering encouragement in times of particular stress or self-doubt.
The ‘be your own boss’ lifestyle is also challenging because it requires exceptional self- discipline. Furthermore, it requires hard work for a long period of time before results start to show. Entrepreneurs can never really ‘switch off’ and take a holiday. Occasionally, mentors may need to remind mentees that their hard work is worth it.
7. Bounce ideas off each other
A mentor-mentee relationship is mutually beneficial. Sitting down over coffee and talking to each other about various ideas is valuable for the following reasons.
- Firstly, ideas are verified as being plausible. Although in theory an idea might seem plausible to the individual who formulated it, another person may identify barriers to the practical execution of the idea.
- Secondly, ‘bouncing ideas off’ another person is beneficial, for facilitating development of the idea.
- Finally, talking through certain aspects of business, ideas or barriers facilitates creativity and the formation of new ideas and strategies.
Mentors are people who are more experienced than their mentee, and have spent longer in a particular industry. Therefore, they will have built up a strong network of inspiring and influential people. They may be willing to facilitate meetings with other people who can help or advise you.
A mentor is an invaluable source of information, knowledge, and encouragement to a mentee. However, it is important to note that this relationship is mutually beneficial. Bouncing ideas off one another stimulates creative problem-solving. Another mind on any problem is always positive. A mentor should run their own new ideas by a mentee, as well as vice-versa. Not only because the mentee will learn, but because they may identify barriers their mentor has missed, or creative ways to practically enable the idea.