Why do startups need a business mentor?

27 May 2014, Posted by Shyam Sekar S

Recently, I had an opportunity to deliver a session to a large group of entrepreneurs.  At the end of my presentation I was asked by a half a dozen entrepreneurs requesting me to be their mentor.  One of them posed a question – “why will I need a mentor as I am already running a reasonable successful startup? “

“Does that mean Sachin Tendulkar and Roger Federer, don’t need a coach?  Or should the coach have far skills superior to Sachin or Federer, to be their mentor?” was my response.  It simply means that there is someone who observes you closely and provides those critical suggestions/inputs which will help these superstars perform even better at their current level or help them sustain their peak.  Improvement is required for everyone, even at the highest level, and so it is essential that startups and SMEs certainly do need a mentor in taking their business forward.

Mentor is not a consultant; rather they act as your coach.  A business mentor or a business coach comes with rich experience, are business savvy, built successful enterprises, and one who has the passion to support entrepreneurs in helping their dreams become a reality.

Business mentors / Business coaches will help you fine-tune your strategy, help you network with right contacts, suggest you as to when to take your idea to an investor and can also help you balance your work-life.  It is critical to have a mentor who would play the devil’s advocate for you, to ensure that you take the right decisions.   Business mentor should not hesitate to ask the right questions; they guide you through barricades and successfully navigate, steer your company in the right direction.

Having understood the need of a mentor, how will you be able to identify one?

  Look closely, right from your relatives to bosses to peers.  You have known them for long and they too know you well.  This helps you strike the right chord to get things started

  Next is to look at external sources, say through social networks.  LinkedIn is a useful source to look for the right type of mentors.  You may not know the individual beforehand, so the best way is to look at their ‘recommendations’ to understand if that is the kind of mentor who you would like to have for your company

  Look at online blogs, magazines, etc. and you might come across a business mentor who can complement your skills

  Networking in meetings can also help  you identify a good business coach for you

Once you have identified, it is always better to formalize their engagement.  It is good to set the expectations right at the beginning.  The best way is to have a brief conversation with the would-be business mentor or business coach, say for an hour or so.  This will help understand whether both of you share the same wavelength, same values and if they are also open to share their knowledge, experience and more importantly their time in helping you shape your idea, or build your enterprise.

Some mentors might provide the support free.  But in those cases, the commitment and involvement levels are likely to be significantly lower.  Also it is difficult to request or find the right time to take their guidance constantly as their priorities would be different and might not sync with your expectations.

While striking a commercial term with the business coach, you can have various modes to structure the payment terms.  The usual ones are a flat retainer fee for a fixed period.  In some cases they are inducted into the board and given stakes in the company.  Sometimes a combination of retainer and success fee might work best.

Once your business mentor or your business coach is on-board, you will need to have reviews, discussions in a periodic manner.  A fortnightly or monthly meeting can work best.  These reviews are important to keep the business running with razor-sharp focus and thrust.
Business coach, with their experience and wisdom should be able to give shape your idea or you’re your business to the next level.  In the event if things do not work out with the mentor as envisaged, you can politely disengage with the mentor by giving them sufficient notice.  The key is not to burn bridges with your mentor, as what goes around comes around.

Sometimes it is also advisable to have more than one mentor.  Let’s say, if you have a mentor for marketing and sales, you may look at mentors for financial strategies or organizational development or operations excellence.

The need of a mentor has become more critical than ever before.   These business coaches have practical experience backing them and have faced numerous instances before.  You might probably know as to what you need to do in your business, but your business coaches can also suggest you what not to do.  You will not only derive these significant benefits in having these business mentors in your team, but also can make their success story a part of yours too.

Startup Xperts is a business growth and consulting firm with an objective to transform CEO’s vision into achievable, actionable goals that deliver results.  Our mission is to help companies to steeply accelerate their revenue growth, profitably.  Be it family run business, small or medium enterprise or a boutique firm, Startup Xperts have all the right answers to step up their growth.  Startup Xperts help clients in a range of service areas including business consulting, strategic consulting, sales and marketing consulting, digital marketing, Sales Process Outsourcing (SPO), HR, Operations and leadership training, sales training, business mentoring and executive coaching.

To know more about Startup Xperts, visit us at www.startupxperts.com or write to us at info@startupxperts.com

Author Shyam Sekar acts as a Chief Mentor and Strategist at Startup Xperts and provides business consulting and execution support to numerous startups and SMEs, helping them build their enterprises successfully.

The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and Startup Xperts is not responsible for this content.  In case of any objection in content, IP violations, incorrect or inappropriate information, please inform us at ceo@startupxperts.com.   We will do our best to act on it at the earliest.

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