Great founders are constantly pushing their startup forward, where doing more and faster means finding yourself sometimes making decisions without enough knowledge or experience. With the constant challenges you face daily when building and driving your startup the best advice anyone could offer is that entrepreneurs need to surround themselves with good mentors.
I recall early on on my experience as a co-founder of Libboo meeting with our first angel investor and mentor. One of the reasons we got that early support was being open and expressing that 'we didn't know what we don't know'. Mentors help you avoid those mistakes that could otherwise slow you down.
As a founder you're constantly collecting, synthesizing and analyzing information, and you just don't have the luxury of waiting and it helps to have mentors who have that experience to help you move faster through those decisions.
So, what advice is there for founders looking for good mentors? There are various articles out there on what to look for in a good mentor. There are no hard rules here. But, I've put together of few suggestions:
- Look for Experience - A good mentor has the expertise, experience and skill you (and your team) don't have at this stage. Be honest and self-aware about the skills or areas you are lacking. Founding teams are like 'swiss cheese' knowledge- and experience-wise. Find someone who has gone through the actual experience and done the hard work to succeed.
- Look for Success - Success can be defined in many ways. Looking for someone you respect and who is living proof of what you'd like to achieve is so important, especially if you will be acting on their advice. They say that 'Like attracts Like'. Consider that there should be significant overlap in your vision for the future.
- Direct and Supportive - You may have heard of 'Fail Fast' - a good mentor will be direct and proactive in giving you advice, yet supportive in the way it's delivered. A good mentor recognizes that it's ultimately your company and he/she will never say "You need to or must do..." However, a sign of a great mentor is in the way they teach. They'll be socratic in the way they offer help and deliberate when time is of the essence or even when the message is not good. A good mentor is patient, yet is action-oriented.
I would suggest taking the time in getting to know the people you choose as mentors. Sometime going for the big titles and mega pedigree ultimately may not be as helpful. I think that looking for other entrepreneurs, who have done it and are 'doing it - just like you, make the best mentors. But ultimately a great mentor want to- and enjoys paying it forward.
I'm sure there are many great suggestions out there on choosing the right mentor. I'd encourage you to read more on this subject, and ask other entrepreneurs how they choose their mentors.