What is a mentor and why do you need one

"Mentor, the best ally for success", says Juan Pablo Bustamante, former CEO of Grupo Vital.
What is a mentor and why do you need one
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8 min read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
This story originally appeared on Incmty

If you are an entrepreneur and are looking for the support of someone with experience and knowledge to help you overcome challenges, the accompaniment of a mentor is what you need to achieve your goals.

INCmty spoke with Juan Pablo Bustamante, former CEO of Grupo Vital , made up of companies - such as Omnia Médica, Control Vital, Plan Vital, Omnialab and Humana Vital - dedicated to health care and with operations in several Latin American countries. In addition, he was recognized as Mentor of the Year 2019, by Endeavor Peru . Next, he tells us about the topic: ' Mentor, the best ally for success' .

Image: Via LinkedIn

INCmty: From your own experience as an entrepreneur and Endeavor mentor, how do you define the figure of a mentor in the ecosystem?

Juan Pablo Bustamante (JPB): The mentor must know how to ask the right questions to guide the entrepreneur and his team to solve problems or identify opportunities. He is someone who anticipates adversity. In addition, it is a support that has experience in a certain field and its only satisfaction is helping others to achieve their goals. The mentor can also share his social capital, that is, his network of contacts to generate more value for the entrepreneur.

INCmty: When you started as an entrepreneur, how was your experience with your mentors?

JPB: Much about the passage. I believe that the essential role of the mentor is to accompany and give advice. Sometimes the role of the entrepreneur is a lonely role, and you have many fears and insecurities. And not necessarily the mentor should give you all the answers, but help you find the ones that are inside you. I believe that the entrepreneur will always know more about the business than the mentor. But for it to go from an idea to a company, that support is necessary. Sometimes the entrepreneur just needs to be heard, not the answers. In addition, always advice or support is essential to move forward.

INCmty: How to start and maintain a good relationship between entrepreneur and mentor?

JPB: There are two components: trust and chemistry. Trust is something that is granted from the beginning and it is up to both parties to maintain and care for it. If one of the two has an excessive ego, they will not be able to take advantage of the relationship. We must also consider that, in the relationship between entrepreneur and mentor, knowledge does not occur unilaterally; even sometimes the mentor learns more from the mentee than the other way around. It is also important to develop skills to know how to read people, to understand what is behind some insecurities and fears to get the most out of the relationship between both parties. However, the 'chemistry' component is real, and sadly not all relationships will work. Although that doesn't mean that mentoring doesn't work. If you have confidence and chemistry, the sky is the limit.

INCmty: Who chooses whom?

JPB: I think they meet, the same thing that happens in a relationship. In my case, for example, I have been fortunate to work with more than 30 Endeavor companies (from Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and the United States). In some cases, that relationship transcends the environment from mentoring to friendship. And many times what I learn from entrepreneurs is more than what I can contribute, because they manage to transmit energy, passion, determination and knowledge to you. Working with entrepreneurs is a breath of fresh air because you understand and learn about a new sector, challenges and technologies. It is a wonderful win-win relationship.

INCmty: From your perspective and with the experience you have in the Latin American market, what is your analysis of the figure of the mentor in the ecosystem of the region?

JPB: There are many figures within the ecosystem: entrepreneur, mentor, investor, academic, SMEs, startups, scale-ups. Each with a function. In the case of Latin America, there are many opportunities and much to do, although unfortunately in the countries of the region there is informality and corruption that prevent the growth of companies. We also have little regulatory support from governments. Ultimately, what kills a company is a lack of working capital. This vision of the real problems of companies with many years in the market and that have a certain stability can help entrepreneurs to advise them.

INCmty. Do you think that for Latin American entrepreneurs it is better to have a mentor who is from the region?

JPB: When it's a product or service with a very technical, technology or platform theme, mentors from anywhere in the world can work. But when you have a product or service that implies that your growth or development unfolds in a Latin American, European or Asian ecosystem, it is important that it is someone from the region. In the case of Latin American countries, we grapple with issues such as inflation or bureaucracy, which are specific to the region. Therefore, there a mentor who knows this context can help or advise you based on their experience. Even have a mentor from the same country where you start.

INCmty: From your point of view and based on the mentoring you have given, where do you think entrepreneurs are failing?

JPB: In the case of Endeavor, where I have been working with scale-ups (companies with traction) for two years, what we want is to find the inflection point, so that they can grow 10 times more. On the other hand, in the case of entrepreneurs, it also depends on the moment in which they are. For example, to a recent college graduate who wants to start a business, I would tell him to take a risk. And from my experience, I can say that persistence and resilience is more important than talent or the million dollar idea. Success is often about continuing to insist and reinvent yourself, listening and moving on. Once the entrepreneur overcomes different stages and difficulties, there also the accompaniment of the mentors is very important because the path is a roller coaster of emotions, and the mentor stabilizes the situation.

When you have little experience and a lot of passion, feelings sometimes win you over, so you maximize the problems that can be perfectly minimized with the help of a mentor. Mentors have the opportunity to recycle our mistakes, sometimes as a therapeutic way. This without taking away the importance that the entrepreneur has to make mistakes, because many times more is learned from the mistake than from the success.

INCmty: Final message to the INCmty community

JPB: Each figure can find its role within the ecosystem. In the case of students, they already come with the chip to undertake and be their own bosses. Learning and undertaking have to come hand in hand. I recommend that you start small and dream big. Get together with people who add value to you. Team up with people who complement your skills and learn to be resilient. Success is in persistence and determination. In the case of SMEs, the real value they have in the Latin American economy is often not recognized. Unfortunately, tax regulations are lacking for SMEs to take the leap they need to grow even more. In the case of investors and corporations, investing in startups and sacel-ups is a very interesting way to diversify investment portfolios, to develop a nose to identify which may have a better future than others, and that is good for everyone. For their part, corporations are timidly beginning to explore corporate venture capital , so it is a way to grow without losing sight of the main business lines.

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