Make it a goal to mentor at least one entrepreneur, say global opinion makers at GES 2017

Make it a goal to mentor at least one entrepreneur, say global opinion makers at GES 2017
November 29
15:22 2017

By Major Sunil Shetty, SM(retd)

Three global women opinion makers and two chairmen of leading international groups had one universal message for global entrepreneurs -“Make a conscious attempt to mentor” a peer by sharing your knowledge; guide them in their entrepreneurial journey because it helps “them avoid major pitfalls.”

When John Chambers, Executive Chairman of Cisco, as a moderate, asked his guests speakers- what their “Call to Action” would be for making a difference for the next year – all of them agreed that entrepreneurs should make it “a goal to help at least one entrepreneur during the coming year”.

According to Marcus Wallenberg, a Swedish banker & Investor, “entrepreneurs do really benefit from a support of a mentor”. He asked entrepreneurs to make it their goal to help their peers in the coming years.

globalentrepreneurshipsummit_GES_1280_720“Mentorship is so critical, and something each one of us can do”, said Ivanka Trump, an Advisor to the US President. She further added, “each one of us can find in our communities in our neighbourhood… another person who can benefit from our knowledge”… and they, in turn, can “provide tremendous insight to us.”

Sharing her personal experience Ivanka said, she could create the impact because she received “advice and feedback” from “very intelligent people”.

When asked for her call to action, Nirmala Sitharaman, the Defence Minister of India, said if entrepreneurs made a “conscious attempt to help one more” of their own it would “bring out many women” thus accomplishing the summit’s agenda “Women First, Prosperity for all”.

Highlighting that mentorship is the core of success, Ivanka said, most entrepreneurs she interacted with had one universal message to share, “the guidance and professional wisdom imparted upon them” was “more valuable to them then capital in the early stage” – as “it helped them avoid major pitfalls”.

Ms Trump said, finding mentors was “particularly challenging for women because there are less natural mentors there is a smaller ecosystem of women” thus she called upon male entrepreneurs to “create opportunities for their female peers”.

Sibongile Sambo, founder & CEO of SRS Aviation, a pioneering woman in South African aviation, called on to mentor young boys and girls as they are our future leaders.

India’s Mentoring Scene

There has been a boom in mentoring space, especially in India, in the past few years – to the extent that it got a bit muddy.

I started askmentor, a mentoring platform, in early 2014 and during that time, at start-up events, I would come across ‘wantrepreneur’ and budding entrepreneurs who failed to see the value mentors brought to start-ups.

Well to be fair to them, it was not completely their fault because at that time the start-up ecosystem was primarily focused on funding and VCs and not so much on mentors.

Today, just search the word mentor in LinkedIn, and the results will tell you the story – mentoring is the new sexy thing!

When start-ups approach askmentor, my first question to them is: “have you defined what you are looking for in a mentor or the type of mentor” and eight out of ten times- the answer is No.

With so many people claiming to be a mentor it is vital that budding entrepreneurs understand how and whom to pick as a mentor. We have devised a basic template that could help start-ups home in on to a suitable mentor.

Guide to Picking a mentor

  1. Business Mentor: Remember, entrepreneurs know what it takes to build a successful company because they have “been there and done that.” They can relate to the ups and downs, of a budding entrepreneur, both emotional and professional.

Moreover, most importantly their advice is grounded because they have gained experience over a period by dirtying hands in real life situations. A business mentor can be a domain expert too.

Domain Mentor: Domain mentors are professionals with in-depth knowledge and experience in a particular field such as, but not limited to, finance, technology, marketing and others.

A domain mentor need not be a business mentor- because she/he may or may not have been an entrepreneur.

  1. Star Mentor: At a start-up event last year, a young lady visited askmentor’s lounge, and her first question was – who are your ‘Star Mentors’. What she meant was a famous business personality.

    Yes, it would be great to have the likes of Ratan Tata and Bill Gates on the mentor list of a start-up, but we all know it is not possible.

    So, pick a mentor who can add value to your start-up through her/his knowledge, experience, and industry connections. The entrepreneurial galaxy has numerous ‘Stars Mentors’, big and small, go for the one who fits into your requirement and is easily accessible.

  1. Accessible mentor: No all mentors are into mentoring as a full-time profession. The truth is, it is not required nor possible to have one-on-one mentoring all the time. Founders should be able to connect with mentors either in person or through use of technology especially when entrepreneurs need to address a challenge or a deadline.

  1. Social Media Mentor: Start-up events are churning out many social media hotshots or social media mentors. It is a must that founders carry out due diligence on potential mentors first- research on their experience, knowledge and or contribution to a start-up ecosystem. Don’t just go chasing social media hotshots.

  1. Multiple mentors: It is important to note that a start-up would need one or more mentor through its entrepreneurial journey. Yes!  it is perfectly fine to have multiple mentors be it a domain expert, a business expert or just a mentor-friend with whom one can share fears, worries, and happiness.

Founders should remember that events are an ideal place to search and connect with mentors. Budding entrepreneurs should identify, meet, interact and follow potential mentors over a period of onboarding them.

Views are personal.

The author is the founder of AskMentor.

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