A Good Mentor Is Not ___________.
You have a mentor for your startup and more importantly, for yourself. He or she is a great person, almost a best friend. You meet every couple of weeks over coffee and discuss the frustrations and pitfalls of being a founder. You exchange a couple of emails a week about marketing, funding or production. It takes a day or two for your mentor to answer but you know he or she is a busy person. The responses are always upbeat and reaffirm that you have your company headed in the right direction. The affirmation is awesome! You feel like a champion.
A few months into your relationship with your mentor there are several big decisions that need to be made about the future of your startup. The stress would be unbearable except for the fact that you are meeting with your mentor in the next few days. You are relieved at the thought of getting some advice and insight.
Your mentor arrives to the conference room you scheduled a couple of minutes late and says; “Since we weren’t meeting at the coffee shop I had to stop and get one.” He sits down and opens his laptop. “Oh, jeez I didn’t notice the attachments to your email. Just fill me in.” You spend the next 20 minutes telling him what is going on with your company. He types away as you speak. You think that he is taking notes. When you are finished speaking he looks up and says; “Sorry but I had to get those emails out. You know how it is.”
When you walk out of the meeting you feel like it was wasted time and not just that meeting, but also the last several months with this mentor. As he leaves he says; “You are doing great. Things like this come up and you have to learn to deal with them. This is how I learned. You can fill me in on what you decided and how it turned out next time we meet.”
This isn’t that unusual. Most innovators and founders need and want a great mentor. They think they know what a good mentor is but they really don’t think about what a good mentor is not. Here are a few things you don’t want your mentor to be.
A Good Mentor Is Not __________.
A Coffee Buddy – Your mentor should be more than a casual coffee meet-up. If you aren’t talking to your mentor a couple of times a week face-to-face then you aren’t utilizing his or her experience and skills to their fullest potential. If your mentor can’t be available for 30 minutes, a couple of times a week then you might want to find another.
A Poor Communicator – There are many successful founders out there but all are not mentor material. If your mentor can’t convey his experience and knowledge to you in a way that you find useful then he or she isn’t a good choice. High level mentors love to mentor. They become vested in you and your ideas. The want to share their experiences with you in ways that will help prevent you from “learning the hard way” like many of them had to.
A Lousy Listener – Being a founder of startup is tough and challenging on many levels. A mentor is not there for you to only bounce business problems off. He or she should also be there to listen to what you are going through on a personal level. A mentor has to actually listen to you and become engaged in what you are saying. If you don’t sense your mentor’s engagement when you are speaking, then he or she is probably not who you need to support you or your startup.
A Cheerleader – This doesn’t mean your mentor isn’t in your corner or that she doesn’t give you positive support. What it means is that it if she disagrees with you or when your company has a setback she is going to give you a participation trophy and a juice box and tell you that you are awesome. A good one won’t. A good mentor should disagree with you and tell you how it is in their eyes.
A Management Consultant – Your mentor is not there to run your business for you. He or she is to help guide and advise your company on major issues like funding, marketing and a host of high level issues. Day-to-day operational issues are fine to bring up when they directly impact the overall success of your company but they will hopefully not be a continual focus item.
A Quick Hook-Up – This is probably the most important one. You and your mentor have to have some sort of personal connection. The mentorship relationship is a long haul. Building a product idea into a company is a long process that involves many victories and losses. There is going to be tough love and shared triumph. However, if you and your mentor don’t respect and trust each other then you are bound to fail eventually.
RAIN Eugene’s Mentors
It sounds difficult to find a mentor that fits you and your startup because it is. RAIN Eugene has events like our Open Mentor Hours in Eugene, Springfield and Cottage Grove. These hours are the perfect time for you to drop in and meet with our mentors or join RAIN Eugene’s Innovation Network to help you navigate the complexities of being a founding entrepreneur of a new company.
RAIN Eugene’s Monthly Mentor Events
Fertilab Eugene: 9am – 1pm FIRST Wednesday of each month
Fertilab Springfield: 9am – 1pm SECOND Wednesday of each month
Healing Matrix Cottage Grove: 10am – 2pm THIRD Wednesday of each month
RAIN Eugene (942 Olive St): 11am – 3pm THIRD Thursday of each month