The simple answer as to why I spend so much time mentoring is because I can afford to invest the time in what I feel is an important activity and I also find it very rewarding. I have worked long hours for many different companies (mostly startups) in many different industries and with many strong CEO’s. I’ve always been on the marketing/business development side of the business and I have a lot of experience jumping onto fast moving startup trains and going for the wild ride. And working in this type of environment, you learn a lot fast.
So now I have time in my schedule to give back and help startups with their 21st century marketing issues. Today there is a lot of marketing noise out there and not many startups have marketing budgets, so it’s challenging on both sides of the table. But sharing my marketing strategies and suggestions to gain customers, launch products, enter into new markets and all the other marketing issues, is important, especially in a rapidly growing startup ecosystem like Portugal.
I also share my thoughts and insight on technology, apps, product ideas, etc. as one thing you learn quickly working in startups is how to gather information quickly, ask direct questions, make smart assessments and map all this over current market conditions. Yes, many times cool apps just don’t make it and certain smart hardware products get lost in the shuffle, but mentoring helps startups gain perspective and opens doors to important contacts.
I will continue to mentor and will encourage the startups that I meet to “really leverage the mentors knowledge, experience and contacts”.
Additionally, years ago The Mentor Manifesto was published by TechStars and this manifesto outlines how a mentor should operate. It’s worth a read if you have not seen it before. So for the startups reading this blog, expect a lot from your mentors and work on making the right mentors a two-way relationship to help you grow.
THE MENTOR MANIFESTO
– Be socratic.
– Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back).
– Be authentic / practice what you preach.
– Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
– Listen too.
– The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.
– Be responsive.
– Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
– Clearly separate opinion from fact.
– Hold information in confidence.
– Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
– Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.
– Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.
– Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
– Be optimistic.
– Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.
– Be challenging/robust but never destructive.
– Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.
So expect a lot from your mentoring which is often very fast and furious. Make sure you follow mentors in the right places online (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and that you give them your contact details. Know that even though mentors have a lot of experience, that you can have some expectations from your time with them as well. And use their time wisely as the best mentor relationships eventually become two-way!