Executive mentoring

In working with a mentor...how do the relationships work and what are the expectations?

Lee Poskanzer President and Founder at Directive Communication Systems

October 21st, 2015

I'm considering using a mentor.  I'm new to being an entrepeneur running a early stage startup,  I'd like to understand the expectations for each of us including time commitment, responsibilities and is there compensation.    I want to ensure the experience is a win win for both of us....

Stéphanie Mitrano-Méda Transition Designer - Keynote Speaker - PhD

October 22nd, 2015

Hi Lee
I've worked on the subject of entrepreneurial mentoring since 2007 and I have summarized some key points in this downloadable pdf doc:
These should answer your questions about overall mentoring relationship but concretely the key on your side is:
- openness (which is ok given the required matching condition of no potential conflict of interest) to share and to listen
- preparation - ensure you are ready and have questions or things to put on the table before each meeting with your mentor
- autonomy of decision (it is your business and you can choose not to follow mentor's advice)
Contrary to Ian's response a mentor is not paid / compensated it is a voluntary activity (pro bono) but maybe Ian was talking about a coach who is paid as it is a professional activity. A mentor in your case should be an experienced entrepreneur who is willing to support your thinking about your business for at least 6 months seeing him/her once a month. Formal mentoring programs are well developed around the world these days.
Best of luck

Graham Seel Founder and Principal Consultant at BankTech Consulting

October 22nd, 2015

I like Stephanie's distinction between mentor and coach. A mentor will encourage you to work through questions and challenges, helping you to build confidence in what you already know. Good mentors ask questions but generally don't give answers - that's your job! But good mentors also help you to focus and organize your thinking so that you arrive at the right answers. 

However, if you lack the knowledge of how to get started, how to sell, how to build a business, etc, then you will benefit hugely from a good coach. Yes, compensation models vary enormously - the better coaches will be flexible in balancing between up-front and ongoing payments, and payments that are tied to the success of your business (which typically costs you more if you're successful, but ensures you only have to pay when you can afford it).

Ian Homer Coach To Executives and Business Owners

October 21st, 2015

It's a great decision to work with a coach/mentor. Eric Schmidt (Google's Chairman) said it was among the best pieces of advice he received! Steve Jobs himself was coached by John Campbell. Almost no one (pretty much zero) achieves much on their own. Your job is to succeed - there is no rule that says you have to succeed solo!

Coaches vary widely in terms of charges, time commitment and meeting rhythms. The benefits though are many, including seeing what you can't see, having a partner to brainstorm with and importantly, someone to occasionally "tell you how it is" and hold you accountable.

On the flip side, if you're at an early stage and money is very tight you may also consider operating as you are for a few months to be clear about where your blind spots are and what kind of support you need.

Talk to some coaches, understand what their specialities are, who they've worked with and how much they charge. It's a great choice to accelerate your performance.