A few times now I’ve been asked by mentors I know to mentor or meet with one of their mentees. I always say yes, as I enjoy mentoring and always want to be helpful.
But I’m learning I need to ask some key questions before I agree to such a mentoring session:
- What does the mentee need? Referrals to contacts in his or her industry? Domain specific answers to questions? Feedback on his or her pitch deck? Connections to investors?
- Why me? Is it my general experience, expertise, contacts or what?
- What information can I get about the entrepreneur before we meet? Web site? Exec sum? Slide deck?
- Is this a one-shot meeting or is there an expectation I’ll be involved further with the startup company?
- Is this a first time entrepreneur or someone with startup experience?
Back to the old rule about meetings. There are three aspects:
- Preparation – including the objectives and agenda
- Conducting the meeting
- Following up
You need to adhere to this process when you are called upon to “pinch hit”, otherwise you may not be maximizing your ability to help the mentee and may waste your time and theirs’.
And. of course, if the answer to question #2 isn’t satisfactory, you and the entrepreneur may be best served by gracefully declining the invitation, because of lack of fit and perhaps recommending another mentor.