April 23, 2013 by SGE
The notion of mentorship is an iffy one. Whether or not a mentor-mentee relationship can help your business hinges on whether advice-giver has the relevant skills and knowledge to give insight. But it’s not just about a head full of information: A mentor’s network can be invaluable, as well as an acute understanding of your business context and situation and the ability to give advice suited to your circumstances.
With that in mind, we consulted the experts at Ask ACE, a platform for startup-related questions, on precisely this conundrum, and here’s their advice:
Gareth Poh Walker, founder of Preston & Walker, a celebrity and speaker management firm and GA Walker, a funds and grants consultancy firm:
A mentor is a person with more experience in business, or simply in life, who can help an entrepreneur hone her or his abilities and advise him or her on navigating new challenges.
Before you go about finding a Mentor: Know what you want first.
Knowing your business goals helps the mentor better understand what value he adds to your mentoring relationship and how he can best advise you.
What can your mentor do for you? Determining what type of resource or skills you need is the next crucial step in the mentor hunt. For example, are you looking for someone who’s a good sounding board for ideas, well-connected or with expertise in a certain area such as sales, marketing or operations. After you determine the qualities you’re looking for in a mentor, narrow down the list to the most important three to five resource or skills that is applicable to you now.
The next step is to ‘informally interview a few candidates and check against your criteria to see if there’s a right fit to your current business needs. By having a combination of the qualitative and quantitative skills and resource attributes of each of your potential mentors, an ideal candidate will surface.
Finding a mentor: Know Where to Look
Below is a list as a general guide, it is not meant to be exhaustive but, it’s a start.
1) Start with family and friends – ask around for recommendations from family and friends to connect you to experienced business owners that can be potential mentors
2) Attend business networks – The next step is to expand your circle of contacts. While you are searching for a mentor, you can expand your network or even find a couple of clients along the way.
3) Complete strangers – Need more choices? Consider researching profiles of business owners in magazines, newspapers and the internet for someone who matches your criteria.Find out as much as you can about the potential mentor and try to contact them to work out a potential mentorship relationship.
Lim Song Joo, Founder & CEO at BWG Consulting Pte Ltd:
Let me share with you how I view the different persona of Mentors. Let’s call one group the Mentor-Coach: refers to a person/role that can guide you in your development. The relationship is possibly one that will work with you and chart your (company) development over a longer period of time. This mentor adopts a nurturing approach and is akin to a “guardian”. One who will be there to walk the journey and a shoulder to lean on.
The other type, I’ll call it the Mentor-Expert: refers to a person/role that has very specific skills or strengths that you need to help you overcome a problem or difficult situation. This person has the depth of experience and wherewithal to guide you towards a solution. He or she possesses relevant credentials in their professional background and adopts a more quantitative approach towards mentoring.
There is no clear distinction between the 2. Generally, mentors are capable and qualified to provide the necessary support, it just depends on which persona type they lean towards.
When looking for a Mentor, ask yourself what your issues are and look within yourself which style of mentoring suits you (your company) better. If you are facing a technical dilemma, you would seek help from a mentor that has the right technical background, or a Subject Matter Expert (SMEs) to start with. If you are looking for ground up support, then someone who has been there in a similar capacity will be a good guiding hand to support you.
Once you are clear what your needs are, then you can look around for mentoring help. You can start with your inner circle of network, then expanding out to associations, Alumni, or explore specific help group run by government agencies like IE Singapore, SPRING, or ACE, etc. You may also contact the ACE Secretariat if you need any help on securing mentors.
First, figure out what skill gap you are lacking and the type of mentor you are seeking. Do a lot of primary research online to find the potential mentors. Hustle to try to meet them, cold email do work. Be humble and respectful of their time.