“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
– Business Mentor, John C. Crosby
Effective one-to-one business mentoring has been described as the holy grail of the entrepreneurial journey. That might sound theatrical, but when you dig down into the bare-bones of the mentor / mentee relationship you find that great benefits can be achieved through the pairing of experienced mentor and ambitious entrepreneur.
Here at Hatch Incubator in Lambeth, we are very aware how vitally important it is to match entrepreneurs with the mentors who can best support them in growing and developing their enterprise. But, for many entrepreneurs who have never experienced such a service, there remains much uncertainty and confusion about the mentor / mentee relationship; what precisely does the role of a mentor comprise, and what value can an entrepreneur expect to get from the relationship? Justified as such concerns are, they do pose a potential problem regarding the success of the relationship; a lack of understanding can chip-away at the potential benefits, and cause entrepreneurs to under-utilise the opportunity that is being given to them. To help, we will now describe and explain some of the biggest benefits that you can expect to get from working side-by-side with a business mentor!
When you become an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get so close to a project that you find it difficult to take an objective standpoint. Issues and problems, which to others might be very obvious, are masked by your proximity to them, as poor practices, and wasted efforts are repeated continuously, with little hope of positive resolution. A good business mentor can provide a fresh perspective, using their wealth of enterprise experience to identify problems, inefficiencies, and barriers to growth, which would otherwise be allowed to fester and prevent meaningful progress. It is the mentor’s distance from the project, which allows this to happen. Having little or no prior knowledge of the business, allows them to make a valuable appraisal, and evaluate in an impartial way the aspects of the business which need to be improved.
Whilst the most obvious benefits of business mentoring are those which can be achieved through the one-to-one relationship, you shouldn’t overlook the potentially wider-reaching opportunities that can be encouraged through engaging effectively with your mentor. Business mentors have reached their position because they are well respected experts in their field, and this status cannot be achieved without building a network of trusted contacts and useful working relationships.
‘Give and take’ is so important to the mentor / mentee relationship; it is a two-way street, and if you want to gain the trust and confidence of a mentor, you should be ready to demonstrate drive, passion, and willingness to engage in mutually beneficial activities.
Our mentors work with us because it a very worthwhile experience for them. It gives them the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial muscles, engage with ambitious entrepreneurs, and give back to the next generation of business leaders! John Citron, (VP at J.P. Morgan Asset Management) had this to say about being involved with The Hatch:
“Mentoring at Hatch was a rare instance where I was able to use the skills I have acquired from a career in the financial services industry in a volunteering context. I felt like I had unique skills to offer and also that I had learnt something socially valuable in my professional life, which was not something I had been able to see before. The fact that the program is so professionally organized made it a very convenient experience from a volunteering perspective”
Working well with a mentor can open doors in your industry that would otherwise be very difficult to unlock. Therefore it is incredibly important that you view your mentor not only as someone who can help sustain your business, but can also who can also aid in its continued growth and prosperity.
Every entrepreneur, no matter how experienced, will have times when self-doubt and fear threaten their ability to run their business. This is human nature, but when excessive such feelings can prevent growth, leading to stagnation or decline. This can be particularly true for the first-time entrepreneur; having little experience of enterprise can leave you questioning your every decision, underestimating your own abilities, and fearful of actions that might lead to growth and long-term success.
Here an experienced mentor can be something of a game-changer. Just knowing that you have a successful mentor on-hand can give you the confidence needed to push the business forward; to make the difficult decisions and strive for greater achievement. You should never underestimate the power that such a situation have over you; an experienced mentor can be a firm and constant wind at your back, giving you the confidence needed to push your business in the right direction.
The ins-and-outs of business strategies are only learned in one way; through experience. No one is born with the ability to navigate the world of enterprise like an expert mogul; skills and knowledge are learned and built upon through a series of successes and failures. One of the most valuable things about having a business mentor, is that no matter how inexperienced you might be, they have been through it all before. They have learned the lessons which only experience can deliver. They have tried, and failed. They have tried again and succeeded. They have developed knowledge of the marketplace which allows them to strategise in a way which is not yet possible for you as a first-time entrepreneur.
Vanessa (Coco Gourmand) from our second cohort at Hatch Incubator recently summed up this mentor value rather well in a blog post;
“Being matched with my mentor – Audrey Khoo – really helped my decision-making process. I was able to really sit down and flesh-out every single aspect of the business, especially finances which happened to be the most difficult part for me in handling the business. We went through the cash-flow statement, forecast, every single cost and these cold-hard evidence helped me pivot in the right direction. I only had a number of solutions when it came to sustaining and growing the business and the support helped me choose the right one.”
Here at Hatch Incubator in Lambeth we place effective business mentoring at the heart of the entrepreneurial support we provide. It is vital in pushing our startups to achieve development and success! Insightful and dedicated mentoring is much more than support in the practicalities of business development; it is giving a new perspective, it is inspiring entrepreneurs to push harder, it is giving voice to a more successful future and helping to place it firmly within reach!