There is no sense in going it alone in the startup world. You can reap benefits from a great mentor throughout every stage of your career. That's one of the most beautiful things about entrepreneurship'”there is always more to learn.
I've been lucky enough to have a number of great mentors throughout my years in business. Through these experiences, I've learned that there are few non-negotiable qualities that every business mentor should have. It's important to have a clear idea of what you need in a mentor before you seek out'”or 'œfall into''”a mentorship. This relationship will be an important part of your professional development and it should be approached carefully.
Here are some vital qualities that any great startup mentor will possess:
1. The desire to provide guidance
It's virtually impossible for someone to be a good business mentor without being invested in the responsibility itself. Good business mentors want to mentor. It's important that the process of mentoring provides some kind of return for the person offering advice and guidance. Mentorship is a two-way street.
Often, mentors simply get a sense of satisfaction from watching their mentees grow, and this relationship can also provide a new challenge for a seasoned entrepreneur. When the mentor is just as engaged in the process as the mentee, both parties will reap great rewards. This also means that you need to be someone worth mentoring, so be driven, ask great questions and stay focused.
2. Similar communication skills
It's easy to get star-struck when searching for a mentor. Someone who is an icon in your field and has abundant experience can inspire you, but that doesn't always mean that person will make a great mentor. Even if someone has a wealth of knowledge, that knowledge will be useless to you if they don't know how to 'œspeak your language.' We all have different communication styles and it's important that your mentor can convey complex ideas in a way that you understand.
The only way to really get a good feel for this is to take your time developing a relationship with someone prior to setting up any kind of formal mentor/mentee relationship. Don't rush it!
3. The ability to provide constructive criticism
Not only should a good mentor be able to communicate in a way that resonates with you, but they should also be honest with you at all times. A person who is worried about hurting your feelings or offending you is unlikely to be a great mentor. Mentors need to be able to offer encouragement, but also must identify your weaknesses and offer constructive criticism that will make you a better, more polished and well-rounded entrepreneur.
Two of my greatest inspirations are my co-founders: Charles Abrahamson, my co-founder at SMTP2GO, and Mark Ling of Salehoo and Affilorama. They give me the confidence that I have someone on the path with me, but they're also not afraid to question and challenge me. This frank, bold leadership style is also one of the qualities that makes a good mentor a great one.
4. Availability to mentor
In addition to the desire to mentor, someone you are considering as a mentor should have enough time in his or her schedule to engage in the process of mentorship. If someone's schedule is already overloaded, they aren't going to be able to provide the guidance and attention that you need and deserve.
If you have great chemistry, but the person has an overloaded schedule, consider re-approaching them later to see if they have more time to commit to mentoring. Don't waste your time with someone who can't provide you with effective coaching on a regular basis.
When seeking a mentor, it's important to remember that this relationship can be fruitful and productive, but it can also be burdensome and difficult. To avoid a negative experience, find a person who has the desire, skills and availability to be a great mentor. Take your time in the search and be cognizant of your needs. A great mentor is an invaluable tool'”so be sure to find the right person. Your business will thank you for it!
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