He has a complementary post on excuses founders have for not having a mentor. Here’s his list of excuses with my comments on each.
- I don’t have the time. There is some surface validity to this excuse. After all, even those founders who only sleep 4 hours a night are still limited to 20 hours a day. Time is a precious asset for everyone, but most of all for entrepreneurs, who lack other assets, like cash or a team of employees. However, the key thing to remember if you are a founder is how do you invest your time? Like any other asset you need to deploy as a founder, you need to look at your return on investment to judge whether or not to invest in a specific activity or not. Having a mentor gives you leverage, which every entrepreneur needs. You get leverage when your output is a multiple of your input. Given the success of mentoring in programs like TechStars and Y-Combinator, not to speak of the dozens of other successful academic programs, there’s no doubt having a mentor will help you to make the best use of your time.
- There aren’t any good mentors available to me. Finding a good mentor can be a challenge, but like anything else a founder does, it takes effort. But check out this post How to find a mentor as an entrepreneur or one of several other posts on Mentorphile on how to find a mentor.
- I don’t need anyone’s help. At least not right now. Finding the right mentor, like finding the right co-founder or key executive for your venture, takes time and effort. Even if you don’t feel like you need a mentor right now, get started on the process of finding the right mentor. Once you engage with a mentor you’ll soon find how helpful advice, guidance, and feedback from an experienced entrepreneur can be.
- I don’t want to let them down. Fear of failure can keep a founder from doing the things that they need to do, including finding a mentor. But mentorship is a lightweight relationship. While most good mentors will in fact give a founder homework, it’s not going to be something you wouldn’t need to do otherwise and it won’t be onerous, I promise you. So long as you keep your mentoring appointments and are always forthcoming and straightforward with your mentor you needn’t worry about disappointing your mentor.
- What if they are disinterested or flaky? If you find a mentor through an established program like The MIT Venture Mentoring Service or the many other mentoring programs affiliated with incubators, accelerators or academic entrepreneurship you’ll find that the mentors have been screened and you won’t have to worry about their level of interest or qualifications. However, if you attempt to find a mentor simply by attending networking events and don’t perform your due diligence on a prospective mentor, you do increase your risk of finding a bad match. So make sure you treat finding a mentor as seriously as finding a legal counsel, financial consultant or even hiring a key employee.
So the only excuse for not finding a mentor now is that you already have one, or more. Other than that, as a founder, there’s really no excuse for not taking advantage of mentorship.