To understand the importance of mentorship for startup businesses, we gathered insights from 16 experienced CEOs, founders, and industry experts. From the value of experience and connections to the significance of mentors’ industry intuition, these professionals share their perspectives on why a mentor is a must for startup success.
- Experience and Valuable Connections
- Guidance From Past Mistakes
- Inspiring and Influential Mentors
- Outside Perspective for Startups
- Provide Networking Opportunities
- Affect Growth and Survival of Startups
- Open Industry-Specific Doors
- Build Confidence and Provide Reassurance
- Accelerate Growth and Gain Support
- Gain a Realistic Perspective
- Business Guidance and Focused Approach
- Explore Ideas and Diverse Perspectives
- Think Like an Owner to Grow Your Business
- Mentors Offer Invaluable Advice
- Receive Peace of Mind
- Attain Impactful Industry Insights
Experience and Valuable Connections
A mentor is essential for a startup because they can contribute their experience to offer guidance to new businesses. Mentors have years of working in the industry they are consulting for and can identify business opportunities for the startup. They can identify pitfalls, recommend marketing and sales channels, and give feedback on strategy and tactics.
Not only can mentors evaluate new avenues for the startup, but they can connect the board to established professionals if they need further guidance in other areas of the business, such as marketing, sales, or design. Mentors can be a great addition to a startup, as they provide wisdom and advice to emerging businesses.
Tyler York, CEO, Achievable
Guidance From Past Mistakes
Mentors are great guides for startups. They have already made their mistakes and learned the lessons. A mentor can let you know what methods work and which ones to avoid. They can tell you how they found funding, and why it is important to know when to take out a loan and when to pursue a grant.
A mentor can also help you with business organization. Many people start up a business while they are working a full-time job. Time management is key. You don’t want burnout. There are ways to work your full-time job and ramp up your new business at the same time.
You don’t have to start your new business at 5 pm. You can work both from 8 am to 5 pm daily. A mentor has many tricks to share. Work smarter, not harder. Mentors are lifesavers!
Beth Smith, Life Coach and Owner, Thriving With Resilience
Inspiring and Influential Mentors
Mentors often have personalities that command a great deal of influence over others around them. This is someone who can be a pivotal asset to a startup because they have strong values and a refined vision for success—they’re a person who carries themselves in a manner that inspires others to work to their potential by guiding them towards their goals, as well as the organization’s goals. Such a personality is a quintessential choice as a mentor for the growth of a startup business.
Andrew Chen, Chief Product Officer, Videeo
Outside Perspective for Startups
What is one thing that’s true about everyone in a startup? Everyone works hard, with each other, every single day. This kind of closed network is great for forming close bonds. In organizational theory, it’s called an “execution network.” The issue that arises with execution networks is they lack outside input. Mentors are a great way to get that outside input and visibility outside the execution network.
Trevor Ewen, COO, QBench
Networking Through Mentorship
Startups need all the help they can get—and often, a mentor will introduce a new founder to various contacts to propel them forward. For example, let’s say a vendor relationship fell through or an employee resigned—in these cases, a mentor might have a seasoned candidate in mind or have a list of vendors they had an enjoyable experience with. Mentors bring their own expertise to the table, as well as their networks.
Joshua Host, CEO, Thrivelab
Affect Growth and Survival of Startups
Running a startup can be a challenging journey, and sometimes it’s tough to navigate the road to success. That’s where mentors come in. The impact of mentorship on businesses is clear from a survey by financial technology company Kabbage, which found that 92% of startup businesses said mentors directly affected growth and survival.
A mentor can provide you with a map and compass on your journey to success, offering perspectives you might not have considered before. They can also help establish the right organizational culture, guide you in making tough decisions, and help you develop your management skills.
David Skinner, Commercial Kitchen Designer, TAG Commercial Kitchen Design
Open Industry-Specific Doors
Starting a business is a complex and challenging process, and even the most talented and dedicated of entrepreneurs can benefit from having a few doors opened for them by a mentor with some experience and clout in the same industry.
Finding a mentor who shares the same, or a similar, industry as you can help provide you with valuable insights into the market, consumer behavior, and trends in the sector.
They can also open the doors that may otherwise have been locked to you by introducing you to potential customers, investors, and other key players within your industry. This can help the startup build important relationships and gain access to resources that it may not have been able to access otherwise.
Richard LeCount, Managing Director, USB Makers
Build Confidence and Provide Reassurance
A mentor can help entrepreneurs build confidence. There’s so much uncertainty when starting a new business, and owners may doubt themselves, which causes mistakes and anxiety as the company develops. A mentor can give that assurance a business owner needs to succeed and help the company take off the way it’s intended to.
Stephanie Venn-Watson, Co-founder, fatty15
Accelerate Growth and Gain Support
Anyone can start a successful business. No course, mentor, or book alone will provide the key to success.
However, starting any business can be a rollercoaster of ups and many downs. That said, having a mentor who’s a few steps ahead of you can be a recipe for success. Not only will you be able to reach your business goals faster, but you’ll have emotional support along the way.
It took me years to understand SEO and how to build traffic back when I did this alone. When I surrounded myself with other successful bloggers/entrepreneurs who were many steps ahead, I immediately grew. I learned new strategies and saw ones I thought were impossible to execute became possible.
A mentor doesn’t have to break the bank. You can listen to podcasts, read books, or watch YouTube videos. As an entrepreneur, originality is important to build a business that stands out. However, no one should reinvent the wheel with strategies that have already been proven.
Chris Alarcon, Journalist and Owner, Financially Well Off
Gain a Realistic Perspective
One of the most important reasons to have a mentor at your side as you build a startup business is to help see past the natural blinders of entrepreneurial optimism. A startup is seeded by the financial and validating optimism of bringing the next great idea, killer product, or market-disrupting service to the world.
However, this optimism is both the driver and killer of any startup, depending on the stone-cold commitment of a leader and his team to see things for what they are. However, even the most ardent realists need the unemotional advice of a mentor who’s not wrapped up in startup energy.
The discernment of an experienced mentor will help point out the emotional and psychological pitfalls built into entrepreneurial optimism. A wise mentor is an antidote to the poison darts subtly hidden in the energy of entrepreneurial optimism. To ignore this reality is the fundamental substance of the many naively epic failures of history.
Mark Shattuck, Owner and President, Dream Home Studio, Inc.
Business Guidance and Focused Approach
The main reason that startups everywhere could use mentorship is that mentors know the business side of running a startup—something that every entrepreneur just getting started with their first big idea typically struggles with for the first few years.
I certainly leaned into a few different mentor figures when I was first transitioning from programmer to business owner, so their value cannot be overestimated. One of the more valuable things they can help provide is focus—the urge to do and be everything is difficult to overcome, and an excellent mentor can help you define what your startup is and what it is not and should not be.
Dragos Badea, CEO, Yarooms
Explore Ideas and Diverse Perspectives
The primary reason I believe in the value of mentorship for entrepreneurs is that the startup journey is often a solo one—especially at the beginning—and working alone can be a tough slog.
As a solopreneur myself, I seek mentors who have walked the path before me (so they can point out any obstacles I might be about to trip on), mentors with different perspectives and skill sets (so they can help open my eyes to new opportunities and possibilities), and co-conspirators I can just bounce ideas around with.
There is absolutely nothing more valuable to me than having a safe space where I can talk my ideas through with another person (I enjoy playing a great round of devil’s advocate), and I honestly believe my ideas (and their execution) are always better for it. If you don’t have a mentor yet, please make it a priority to go out and talk to someone who inspires you today—I promise you won’t regret it!
Amy Zwagerman, Founder and CMO, The Launch Box
Think Like an Owner to Grow Your Business
When I started my first business, I didn’t have the mentor that I needed, and I made a lot of mistakes. I thought too much like an employee and did a lot of the work myself instead of spending my time on growing the business.
I was so wrapped up in the day-to-day that I wasn’t focused on the big picture. So, we didn’t grow as fast as we could have. I was fortunate that I could sell the company, but I could have saved a lot of time, money, and energy with the right mentor.
As a startup, you want a mentor who has made their own mistakes and can ask you the right questions so that you think more like an owner. This will keep you on track to achieve your goals and helps with recognizing when you are spending too much time working for your business instead of on your business.
Dennis Consorte, Digital Marketing and Leadership Consultant for Startups, Snackable Solutions
Mentors Offer Invaluable Advice
One of the primary reasons startup businesses must have a mentor is that they can provide a plethora of knowledge and expertise. Typically, mentors have experienced difficulties in establishing a business and have learned from their blunders and accomplishments.
Therefore, they can offer invaluable advice in areas such as creating products, advertising, economics, and processes for entrepreneurs just starting.
In addition, they bring many experiences and knowledge to the table, providing entrepreneurs with insights and guidance that can help them avoid prevalent pitfalls and make informed decisions on critical areas and times of their business.
They can bring new ideas to the table, question established norms, and stimulate creative problem-solving, which can help your company stand out from the competition.
Vladimir Fomenko, Founder and CEO, Infatica.io
Receive Peace of Mind
You’re going to be wearing a lot of different hats as a startup owner, and odds are you will not be an expert in all the things that you really need to know well to manage a startup successfully from the word go.
Having a mentor, someone who’s been through the startup process and can share the benefit of their experience, in situations you are likely to make mistakes, is invaluable for peace of mind.
It’s nice to actually sleep after having a chat with your mentor, running your ideas and activities past them, and hearing “Yeah, that worked for me too” rather than staying up all night worrying that you’re doing something wrong.
Onno Halsema, CEO, Contentoo
Attain Impactful Industry Insights
All businesspeople can agree that the benefits of hiring a mentor are inestimable, especially in the wavering and ever-changing world of startups.
Access to an expert’s industry intuition is one of the biggest perks of having a mentor. It cannot be emphasized enough how valuable somebody’s “sixth sense” can be when obstacles appear. Contrary to common opinion, a mentor doesn’t have to be some omniscient all-wise figure, but someone with a strong “gut feeling” concerning the industry and its trends. Familiarity with real-world scenarios and ability to market fluctuations—no preparation or research can provide the business novice with such knowledge.
The counseling of a more savvy person, whose insights were gathered throughout years of experience, is a must for emerging companies. Unless they want to drown in the sea of failed startups.
Martyna Szczesniak, Community Expert, MyPerfectResume