Improve your odds – find a mentor


According to Jared Hecht, author of the article on You Need a Mentor. Here’s Where to Find One for Free:

Every year in the United States, an average of 587,000 new small businesses are born. The bad news is only half survive five years. And by the time you get to 10 years, that number is cut to one-third. But, there are ways to increase your odds of survival. Working with a mentor has proven to be an indicator of success. Here are five reasons why.

Here are Mr. Hecht’s five reasons with my comments:

1. Mentors put statistics back on your side.

According to a survey by The UPS Store, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years. That’s double the rate of businesses who choose not to have a mentor. Why is that? There are three main reasons: one, new founders don’t know what they don’t know. Successful serial entrepreneurs like Jared Hecht can help founders deal with issues that they aren’t even thinking about. One of the most common is having a founders agreement. It continues to amaze me the number of founders I see who are asking me for advice about raising money, yet they haven’t even decided how to allocate the equity in their venture amongst the founders. Secondly, mentors provide advice and guidance on important issues like when your venture is ready to raise capital and what steps you need to take. And third, mentors provide feedback – whether it’s on your investor pitch or your business model, mentors are great sounding boards who will provide you with timely constructive criticism. And that constructive criticism is actionable – it helps founders take the right next steps, even if that means going back to the starting gate.

2. A mentor’s support and motivation can be invaluable.

The path of startups is littered with rejection. Whether it’s a customer who turns you down, a prospective distribution partner who doesn’t answer your calls or emails after that first meeting, or that co-founder who seems to be slacking off, the number of problems founders face is daunting. Just having a mentor means that you have a source of unbiased advice and support. Mentors want to help you succeed. If you don’t have investors or a board of directors, mentors are really a founder’s sole source of support. In fact finding a mentor is one of the first ways to validate your business idea – we mentors don’t want to invest our time in ideas which are non-starters and will tell you so.

3. SMB mentors offer accountability for entrepreneurs.

Not all ventures are growth ventures, raising venture capital, growing rapidly and either going public or being acquired by a larger company. But whatever the size of your ambition, just having regularly scheduled meetings with your mentor provides accountability. And we mentors, in conjunction with the founder, often assign deliverables for the next meeting, keep the venture moving forward. Mentors focus on the short term, because if you don’t get through the short term you won’t get to the long term!

4. Working with a mentor widens your network.

Referring mentors to sources of professional help, like a good lawyer, accountant or web developer is one of the ways we can help a new founder build their business. While founders should not count on it, mentors may well have potential customers or investors in their networks. Not every mentor will have the right contact for every founder’s need. But due to their experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem they will have a contact list that will be of assistance, particularly if they have worked in the industry your venture is targeting.

5. Where to find a mentor

This section of Mr. Hecht’s article is so valuable you need to read it for yourself. For founders that aren’t part of an academic program or in an incubator or accelerator this is the best advice I’ve seen on where to find a mentor. And when you find a mentor keep  in mind what’s in it for them. Mentoring is a two-way street; mentors love to learn and can always learn from advising a new venture. Many, like me, may have retired to the sidelines of the startup world, where like coaches in a sport, we derive our satisfaction from seeing our venture win.

Here are two related links from the article you may also find helpful:

Approaching and Attracting a Potential Mentor

Your Next Mentor Doesn’t Have to Be a ‘Jedi Master’


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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