What makes a good mentor?

Meera Tenguria, Founder, Aarohan CommunicationsThe good news is in today’s evolving entrepreneur ecosystem, an entrepreneur need not go it alone. Experienced advisors who have ‘been there, done that’ are stepping in to help them sail the ups and downs of building business. Because, let's face it; every stakeholder involved with company has an expectation and a biased opinion about what the company should or should not be doing. Seasoned advisors can lend invaluable assistance to a variety of situations from needing advice on communicating to employees or facing unfamiliar challenge in addressing the community.

With that said, not all advisors are the same. Most can be divided into two categories: Hands-on mentors who have built their own companies from scratch, or senior industry professionals with significant expertise in area that is your weakness. Interestingly, your knowledge gaps can often be better filled with asking a smart person for advice on a specific challenge or issue, rather than to solicit an advisor relationship from the get go.

A mentor, who has expertise in the skills you lack, does not necessarily mean big names and titles, but someone who is willing to share what they know for the good of the business, the company and because the person seeking the mentoring, to succeed.
Mentoring, for people with experience and expertise is often a way of ‘paying it forward’. They were guided when they were starting so they see it as a moral responsibility to serve as a good mentor. No one person will have all the answers; so for an entrepreneur, it’s advisable to choose different advisors with different backgrounds and experiences.

Many entrepreneurs, in the age of quick valuation, think mentors or advisors are to be used for their impressive names for their company profile and website. The reality is entrepreneurs need expertise and skills to survive and grow. A good adviser is always truthful with the advice, even if it pricks a little. A straight shooting advisor is beneficial for it’s always better to get that feedback from someone who may also give you solutions.

Good mentors genuinely want to pass on their knowledge. They understand the problems faced by the entrepreneur in the route to success. For a mentor, encouraging entrepreneurs to build their own success stories is a re-warding experience and a key motivation in investing their time & effort to mentoring a startup.

• For a startup’s Founder, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. Mentors can bring to attention any blind spots that are getting missed in the midst of the feeling of adventure.
• Developing connections is an art that can be challenging if you’re starting from the bottom. A mentor can guide on approaches for networking.
• Communications: Promoting your product or service to customers, establishing a positioning, evaluating the various agencies to be hired, can feel overwhelming. A mentor can help develop the systems and processes need-ed to get that going
• Face-to-Face chats, informal and formal meetings are how relationships are forged and productive ideas and decisions made. A good mentor will commit that time and energy
• A Mentor is not a co-founder, but a source of advice, experience and expertise
• A Mentor will share experiences and insights, that can give rise to practical solutions

A good mentor will provide guidance with constructive feedback, even if it harsh. It gives the entrepreneur the opportunity to improve on a weakness.

• A mentor will challenge your thinking and show you there might be a different way to approach a problem.