Sir Richard Branson’s 5 top pieces of mentoring advice

We recently launched a competition to win a thirty-minute mentoring session with Sir Richard Branson – the chance of a lifetime to get insight and advice on how to make it in business.


With that in mind, we thought it’d be good to share Richard’s top pieces of advice on mentoring, covering everything from why getting a mentor is one the most valuable things you can do, to how to find the right mentor for you.

Admit that you need one

Richard’s first step to finding a good mentor is coming to terms with the fact that you can benefit from having one.

“Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups– factors that tend to manifest themselves in a cocoon-like state of mind where, ‘Only I/we get it and nobody else can possibly help make this thing work’. Trust me: they can and they will. Going it alone is an admirable but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.”

How to find one?

Finding a mentor can feel daunting, but there are lots of options to get you on the radar of the right people – here’s what Richard says.

“Often, you have to do some research. Try going to industry events like lunches, seminars, talks and conferences. Join community groups - your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start. Chambers of commerce often host networking events and meetings that bring beginning entrepreneurs and successful businesspeople together.”

Talk to people, learn about them and their stories; the more you immerse yourself in an entrepreneurial atmosphere, the more it will pay off. And don’t forget that every entrepreneur who takes out a loan with Virgin Startup gets assigned to a top mentor who’s perfectly matched to them.

Who to pick?

Here’s Richard’s advice on picking the right mentor for you.

“Be sure that you choose someone who has experience and connections within your area and level of business. Focus on finding someone who has started a venture that’s similar to yours, and who understands the trials and tribulations of building a business in that area.”

If you can’t find someone in your sector, think outside of the box. Which areas are you less confident in, and what kind of mentor could help you strengthen your offering?

To pay or not to pay

There is some contention over whether you should pay a mentor for their time. With entrepreneurs constantly busy, it seems fair – but when you pay someone you change the business relationship, making them a consultant rather than a mentor. This might make their advice less impartial.

“Keep in mind that an adviser who offers his time in return for compensation is not the same thing as a mentor," advises Richard. “While advisers and consultants can be very helpful, true mentors are effective because they are only interested in helping others succeed.”

All entrepreneurs have benefitted from free advice given out of kindness and a desire to help fresh young businesses succeed – and mentoring passes this on.

Make it part of your business ethos

Mentoring isn’t just a one-off thing; it’s part of a wider circle of engaging with the world around you, contributing to innovation, technology and more. We’re stronger together.

In Richard’s opinion, mentoring is “the missing link between a promising business person and successful business person”, and it should be “embedded within UK businesses”. If we embed this mentality it gives the UK the advantage of being even more nurturing towards new startups, inspiring and supporting the businesses that will change the world in future.

Want to a 30-minute mentoring session from Sir Richard Branson and an invite to our exclusive event for England’s most promising startups of 2015? Enter our competition.