Going beyond friends & family to find mentors – advice from a successful founder



“I see true entrepreneurs as people who are comfortable in the discomfort of not having the same security as an employee”

Paul Kenny is a successful entrepreneur who now invests and mentors other entrepreneurs.

He has some words of wisdom when it comes to finding mentors:

When you start your first business, your mentors are everyone you know – your parents, your friends.
“I launched my first venture when I was 25. I just had an idea and I went and raised some money. It started to grow and I just rode with it – I didn’t really have a network around me that had been through the same thing. And I think when you start a business, there is a difference between you, the entrepreneur, in relation to the outside world – you feel like you are the odd one out.
“Until you start a business, your mentors are everyone you know – your parents, your friends, the corporate environment you’ve been in. But when you start a business, none of these mentors understand the kind of advice you need, or even understand the same language in which you’re now speaking. I had that problem when I was 25, so I didn’t actually have a mentor for the first two years – and that was one of my biggest mistakes.
So there’s nothing wrong with leaning on friends and family for the advice, feedback and guidance provided by a mentor when you first start up. But as Paul Kenney points out, in most case these mentors lack the domain-specific experience and expertise that a founder needs. I’ve found that a lot of founders are opportunistic: if a friend or acquaintance or even a perfect stranger offers mentorship type help they tend to take it. Founders need to qualify mentor candidates just as sale people quality customers: is this prospective mentor the right fit for me and my business?
As a founder you are going to have to get used to stretching beyond your comfort zone. Friends and family may be comfortable for you as mentors, but they probably aren’t the best mentors for you and your business. In fact being uncomfortable comes with the startup territory – get used to it! Paul Kenney even likes uncertainty when it comes to be a mentor!
Personally, I like the discomfort and also the lack of certainties that come with being an entrepreneur, also as an investor, and actually as a mentor too. I don’t place a priority value on being stable – and I love the challenge of continual growth and learning.”
Kenney has a lot of good, practical advice for founders, especially when it comes to raising money, so I highly recommend you read the entire article, for tips on what investors are looking for, what it takes to be investor-ready, why he values the founder over the business model, and much more.

“When I invest in an entrepreneur, I invest in the person, not the business – always the person.

“An entrepreneur may have the worst business model, or no idea about the financials, but I’m still looking for a person with perseverance and hustle; that’s key for me. If I meet someone with a great business idea and methodology, but they complain, bicker and moan, I won’t touch them.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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