Did you know that the term mentor is derived from the mythological ancient Greek legend (not Herk this time) the mighty Minotaur. The half-human, half-bull who controlled the centre of the Labyrinth maze. The Minotaur was famed for being able to navigate the maze much a like mentor will guide its mentee. Much like Greek mythology, I just made this back story up but I like to think of our start-up mentors as half-human, half-bull. Why you ask? A great mentor listens, understands and can relate – excellent human qualities. A great mentor will also challenge and charge when the time is right – like a bull to a red cloth. Having the right mentor can be critical to a start-ups success, so here are some lessons I have learned about how to approach this important relationship.
One of the key reasons we wanted to get on MAP, well actually, probably the main reason, was the chance to pick the brains of the excellent network of MAP mentors and advisors. From investors, technologists, lawyers to other start up founders, the MAP network provides unparalleled opportunities to learn from some very bright minds. In a short space of time we have come to realise that the mentors involved in the program are willing to go above and beyond in supporting all the teams. Whether it’s a quick phone call to get some advice, an introduction to a potential client or even the nitty gritty of discussing a technical design solution, the mentors can do it all.
Finding and retaining the right mentors is a key element to any fledgling venture. By virtue, most start up founders are learning on the job. Whilst hard work and persistence are great virtues, having a quick word with the right person at the right time can not only save time but fast track you through a problem solution. Experience and know how can’t be underestimated and the best answers often come from those who have gone through similar challenges previously. Mentors also provide a great point of comparison. Hearing about their early stage challenges, the difficult moments and the great outcomes brings context to your ‘right here and now’. Knowing that others have gone through what you are going through provides inspiration and clarity.
When thinking about the right mentors for you, it’s similar to what people would recommend about hiring someone – look for people smarter than you. In much the same way, pick mentors who are smarter than you and that can address personal or team shortcomings. It could be that your team lacks experience in marketing, technology or operations. Look for mentors who can help address these knowledge gaps. I would also recommend identifying mentors in similar industries, ideally 1-2 years ahead of your business, so you can hang onto their coat tails where required.
Because the mentors are giving up so much time, it’s important to show respect and appreciation at all times. It’s not because they ask for it, it’s because they deserve it. Being punctual to meetings, going to their office when possible, saying thank you. These all go a long way to building a great relationship. When the time comes, it’s also important to reciprocate and provide support back. With a traditional mentor-founder relationship, the mentor may feel uncomfortable discussing their own challenges for they’re the ‘mighty mentor’, however you should always ask how they’re going and see if you can provide any support back.
Like any relationship or activity, both parties ultimately get out what they put in. If you’re willing to spend the time listening, asking and learning, then the rewards will come. The mentor ultimately sees reward in imparting knowledge and seeing the start-up use that to their advantage, likewise the mentee sees reward from achieving better and more efficient outcomes. The mighty Minotaur may be legend but guess what, your current mentor is likely to be one too.
Parkhound is the easiest and cheapest way to lease and rent parking spaces from residents and business all over Australia. Find great parking with Parkhound at www.parkhound.com.au