Mentors; Do you need one?
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During the Q1 of 2016, India Startup Inc. raised close to USD 1.42 billion across 307 deals. When compared to the last quarter of the year before, despite investor caution, there has been a steady increment in funding which is good news.
However, while success stories are getting written about, it is also important to look at failures. More than 80 per cent startups die within the first three years of starting but we barely hear about them. Some of the most common reason cited are, lack of a unified team or ideological differences amongst co-founders, some shut down due to lack of business clarity or a proper revenue model, the reasons are plenitude.
The startup ecosystem is still at its nascent stage in India. It takes more than just funding for a startup to succeed. Entrepreneurs have ideas, knowledge, passion and more, but this alone is not sufficient for success. The right skill sets and know-how to build a sustainably profitable organisation are important.
For this reason, having a mentor is invaluable. One always finds situations where you don’t know something, but you have to stay in motion and make decisions regardless. Without a savvy guide, in the form of a mentor, you may wind up making crucial early mistakes that would have otherwise been avoidable.
A simple strategy of having good mentors can increase a company’s odds of success more than almost anything else.
Reid Hoffman, the Founder of LinkedIn has highlighted the essence of the entrepreneurial challenge well when he says, “One of the metaphors that I use for startups is you throw yourself off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”
You can’t expect to assemble the plane alone; that’s where good mentors can help. So, let’s look at the top 5 ways a mentor can be an invaluable asset to your startup;
The gray does count
There was a time when establishing business used to take a year,atleast, with innumerable rounds of permissions and approvals. But now it takes only a couple of months and the government is further working towards reducing it to a few days only. A lot of ideas do see light at the end of the tunnel, but the execution is where many have failed. And this failure is again because of lack of experience. In the zeal to materialize ideas, young entrepreneurs forget to capitalise on the most important aspect of entrepreneurship- experience. Having the advice of someone who has been “around the block” is always useful to a new venture.
Opening the right doors
One of the most vital elements of mentorship is the ability of the mentor to open doors for the new company. Mentors are the people who have worked hard to reach their positions, earned their name and honed their skills over a period and built credible relationships. For a startup entrepreneur getting in the door with senior executives of larger companies or government can be difficult. Having a mentor successfully lobby for entrepreneurs to get that first all-important meeting is often vital. A good mentor should be able to help entrepreneurs get past that early barrier.
Giving the right advice
Young entrepreneurs are high on motivation and low on experience, constant roadblocks can lead to impatience and collateral damage due to the same. In-experience in handling people, relationships and finances can often lead to critical errors that could impede the path to success. Often mentors come on board with specific competence, or wealth of knowledge across various areas such as legal, accounting, marketing, intellectual property, sales etc. With their given background they can be very helpful to stop entrepreneurs from making mistakes that may take months or years to discover.
The perpetual questioner
As a startup entrepreneur, it becomes very easy to get swayed away by ones’ own thought, ideas and perception because of the sheer enthusiasm of starting a new venture. And this enthusiasm could end up being like the blind spot to an obvious flaw in the business plan. Having an “outside in view” enables the entrepreneur to see the problem or the solution from an angle which has not been previously explored. A mentor is able to ask difficult questions about the business plan, viability of the idea, the revenue model, the go to market strategy etc. which perhaps has been overlooked by the entrepreneur.
Mentors are catalysts
They will ask difficult questions, help rationalise thoughts, put procedures in place and pressurise to get paying customers. A mentor will help amplify the speed and accuracy at which one solves entrepreneurial problems, share value systems, that will help the entrepreneur in the long run and also be a constant source of motivation. If an entrepreneur can benefit from mentoring, his chances of success are likely to be higher than otherwise.