While there are days of the entrepreneur, various government backed incubators initiatives and some absurdly difficult to find money from the EU, the one thing – and possibly the most important thing that is missing Europe-side, are readily accessible mentors. Those seasoned entrepreneurs who are willing to donate their free time to help the future generations of younger ones who lack that experience which sometimes means the difference between success and failure. Well and to keep them away from the failure.
In the U.S., that is SCORE or known by its longer name the Senior Corps of Retied Executives who typically council America’s small businesses, and set them on the road to success and profitability. On average retired individuals who have a passion for entrepreneurship and years upon years of experience in setting up companies. More so, this is probably the most prevalent of all U.S. entrepreneurship initiatives – and is non-for-profit.
On the other hand, Europe has what sometimes seems like countless initiatives dedicated to helping the entrepreneur. Information sessions, workshops conducted in conference halls, packets, subsidized space, financial assistance, etc… etc… etc… and best of all they are all typically backed by taxpayer money.
But the rub is that there is no necessity to subsidize businesses, in fact subsidized companies will be more likely to fail due to the preconceived conception that access to capital is easier to acquire, or simply that to gain that capital one needs to adhere to a set of absurd government guidelines.
What the business needs is contacts, clients and a strategy on how to acquire them – this capital does not provide, nor do information sessions on why it’s great to be an entrepreneur or institutions whose “vision” is to help the entrepreneur focusing more on their own prevalence in any geographic area.
There’s just too much mess out there, too many signals, not enough simple guidance and “proper & effective” entrepreneurial education. Academia is great and teaching people how to be entrepreneurs is fantastic, but there are no better ways to learn that to just do it.
For all the people in the EU, SCORE is accessible form outside the U.S. and the information in there, i.e. business toolbox can be helpful to non business oriented entrepreneurs, and even some business oriented ones.
We’ve got some start up capital, we’ve got a management team and we’ve got an idea. Great, we’re ready to go.
Wrong. You’re missing what could possibly be one of the most integral parts of your start-up – a mentor, and here’s why.
Mentors are like the wise old man, who can tell you when you’re veering off your path, or if you’re about to make a bad decision, hold a wealth of knowledge and typically know people that can help give you the edge. Mentors are pivotal to you and your business.
As such here’s some best practice advice on how to get yourself a mentor that will help you get your company to the next level.
Networking is key – Networking is by far the best way meet people that may be able to help you in your entrepreneurial venture. Talk to colleagues, friends, anyone and everyone, don’t be shy, ask.
Call up old university professors; they tend to have strong networks, ask your former bosses. Everyone may have a potential contact that can help you, so dig deep and ask.
Meet potential mentors. – Set up talks. Discuss your business, your situation, and what you want to achieve, as well as obstacles your encountering, and how you’re dealing with those obstacles.
A good mentor should tell you what he/she thinks of your business, they should make recommendations, and see where you can be now, in 6 months, in a year, and have experience in the sector that you’re entering. If your entrepreneurial idea is a Plant Nursery, a mentor who’s launched a weblog network is probably not the best one to have.
Stick to similar sectors – For simple synergies, it’s best that your mentor be in the same sector, if you’re in an Internet startup, your mentor should be an experienced online entrepreneur. For telecom, ideally someone who’s had a senior role at a National Carrier, MVNO, or other industry affiliated company.
Now that you’ve managed to get a mentor there are a few things to note.
Most are helping you out for free – and most are very busy individuals, so don’t badger them over every little thing.
If a mentor asks you for compensation from the onset, they’re not a mentor, they’re a consultant, and while on occasion a consultant may be needed a mentor should not outright ask for compensation.
Compensate your mentor, ff they’ve helped you and your success can in part be attributed to their help, give them something for their hard work. If they enjoy wine, a few hundred € bottle is a nice gesture, an even nicer gesture is a 1% stake in your company. 1% may seem like nothing, but when you convert, it’s always nice to get a kickback for your hard work.