Every entrepreneur that receives a start-up loan is enrolled in our mentoring programme, entitling them to a year’s worth of mentoring support free of charge. So what is a mentor, and how will mentoring benefit your start-up?
At Virgin Start Up, we see a mentor as a critical friend and hopefully a role model. Your mentor should support your own personal development and, in doing so, will help you make sense of what is happening in your start-up.
A good mentor will listen to your problems and help you think through possible solutions, often giving you their experienced perspective in the process. A mentor isn’t there to judge you or scrutinise the financials (unless you ask for it, of course). A mentor isn’t there to tell you off if you didn’t do what you said you were going to at your last meeting and a mentor certainly isn’t there to do everything for you.
It’s like having a really good friend, only that friend will tell you exactly what they think and doesn’t have a hidden agenda. That builds self-reliance – something every entrepreneur needs.
And what’s in it for the mentor? Well, the mentor should benefit from understanding different perspectives and approaches to problems and will undoubtedly learn something new from the entrepreneur’s business – working on other people’s businesses will always offer that. For most though, the feeling of knowing that you’ve had a massive, positive impact on another person’s life is reward enough.
Here’s what Virgin Start Up Funded Wesley Sanders and Mentor Stefano Tresca have to say about their mentoring relationship:
Above all however, mentoring is actually a leap of faith on behalf of an entrepreneur. In reality, you have no way of being sure that the relationship will work or be useful, no matter how well-matched you are at the beginning. Some mentor-mentee relationships turn into long-term friendships, others dissipate as quickly as they are formed.
As an entrepreneur, you have to believe in the concept of mentoring and understand how it can be useful and then enter into the relationship with as open a mind as possible, if you are to make the most out of it. You also have to spend as much time building and maintaining the relationship as you do seeking advice and guidance – a good relationship leads to good mentoring.
Often, it’s only later in life that the true value of a mentor is appreciated. This is natural, as a person’s passion for passing on knowledge and wisdom far exceeds a person’s desire to receive it. The best entrepreneurs however, are those that listen to everything and then make their own mind up – and that’s exactly what mentoring is all about.