Who are the mentors, where to find them and how to convince them to work with you
Mentoring in the field of entrepreneurship is a fairly new phenomenon for Russia. In the West, cooperation with business mentors - experienced entrepreneurs who, in the early stages of startup development, help the team with their knowledge and experience is a fairly common practice. Moreover, such cooperation raises the status of both a startup and the mentor himself. In Russia, for various reasons, mentoring is not so popular, but the situation is gradually changing. Specialists of the Vector online business school told who the mentor is, how to find a mentor and agree with him to work together.
A novice entrepreneur will not be disturbed by the view from the side and the opinion of an experienced mentor who can prevent mistakes, give an expert assessment, suggest the right direction for development and understand how to find yourself in business. The mentor will evaluate your work impartially and point out weaknesses. Neophyte startups often cannot foresee the majority of problems, how to find and develop their business, while the mentor has experience and will be able to warn against mistakes in time.
There are several ways to find yourself a mentor. Since mentors most often work with startups, it is possible to find a mentor with any startup accelerator. The mentoring program is presented, for example, at the Skolkovo Institute.
If it is not possible to agree with a mentor within the framework of these institutions, you can do an individual search. First of all, study all media publications about successful companies that are close to you in essence of work and approaches to business. Highlight these companies, study their sites and find the contacts of those who, in your opinion, may be useful to you.
Important: ideally, your mentor should be a practitioner. If you choose a mentor who knows firsthand about business, then his advice and outlook on the situation can be far from reality. Work with someone who knows the market from the inside.
Attend thematic events and conferences: there is an opportunity to find a person with the necessary experience and knowledge, who can become your mentor. However, do not forget: it is better to go prepared. It’s not just about knowing how to “sell” the idea of mentoring and working with you. It is important to understand in advance who is worth approaching. Examine the list of speakers (and ideally, get a list of all the participants in the conference), determine for yourself which of them suits you as a potential mentor, find their photos and remember in person.
Think about the strengths of your project. Decide what you need a mentor for and what you want to achieve in the foreseeable future. Then proceed according to the situation.
If you meet a potential mentor at an event, try to establish a dialogue. Ask a couple of questions about his work, his view of the market situation, and then get down to business: briefly tell about your company (mentioning strong features and achievements) and plans for its development. Let us know that you are very interested in your interlocutor as a mentor and offer to exchange contacts and meet to discuss this opportunity. Try to clarify immediately when your potential mentor is ready to talk with you.
If you do not have the opportunity to meet with a mentor offline, write him an e-mail: tell us briefly about yourself and the company, and why you want to work with him. The next day, try to reach him (if you can’t find the mobile number, call the worker) and see if he saw the letter and how it relates to your proposal. You can also try to “reach out” to him on social networks.
If you manage to make an appointment, get ready as it should: prepare a concise but capacious presentation, think ahead of time on important issues that you would like to discuss. Do not forget: your potential mentor can have a very busy schedule, so save his time. Be prepared to talk on third-party topics: the ability to maintain a conversation always plays into the hands. Tell us how you see your teamwork, ask how interesting it is for your interlocutor and with what regularity he is ready to communicate with you. In continuation of the conversation, send a letter of gratitude and a proposal to schedule the next meeting.
Be moderately persistent, but in case of refusal, show understanding and continue the search.
The regularity of communication with the mentor depends on you, on how much you can interest him in close cooperation and make contact. It will be once a week or once every few months - a question that only you will answer based on the amount of free time, the desire for dialogue and the degree of involvement of your mentor in your business.
However, remember: this communication is necessary, first of all, for you, so take the initiative, be in touch and remind yourself.
As for the remuneration of the mentor: initially, when you just start a project, cooperation can take place free of charge. However, it is common practice when, with the development of a business, your relationship is transferred to a different format from a financial point of view, for example, a small portion of a company's shares is allocated to a mentor.
The mentoring program in Skolkovo is a program for the development of innovative projects (areas: IT, biomedicine, energy-efficient technologies, etc.). Mentor support is provided free of charge and is available to Skolkovo project participants.
MSU Business Incubator - works on the principle of an accelerator. The selected teams receive seed investments, spend four months on the educational program, consult with the curators, develop the project and attract new investments.
The mentor program of the HSE business incubator - allows you to find mentors mainly from among graduates and leading teachers of the HSE. The program will include meetings, discussions, round tables on technical, IT, high tech and other business areas.
Ten Thousand Coffees is a resource where aspiring entrepreneurs can meet and chat with successful colleagues from various fields of activity. You send the invitation to the expert you need, if he accepts it, then agree on a Skype call. Initially, it is assumed that your “meeting” will be held only once, however, having shown perseverance, you can agree on a mentoring.
MicroMentor is a free online service that allows budding entrepreneurs and small business owners to find mentors to help them build a successful business.
Service Leader is an online mentor search resource. To establish contacts using e-mail.
Mentor On is another resource for finding an online mentor; the mentor is selected using a filter system.
Mentor City - in order to access the mentor database, you need an invitation that you can get by leaving your email address.
He knows how to lose
Mentors are not only entrepreneurs with rich personal business experience, but also top managers of companies, investors, consultants, scrum-masters. Mentor-entrepreneur who will know the joy of victories and the bitterness of defeats will bring great benefit to your startup. As the founder of the Otus.ru project Dmitry Voloshin noted in an interview, a good mentor is one who has had at least five failed businesses. The reasons for the failure are usually systemic, he explained the benefits of such an experience. And in this sense, a professional loser is more valuable as an expert than someone who has made a successful business, perhaps by chance. The first can tell you a lot of useful things - for example, what exactly is not worth undertaking. A successful businessman often sins by absolutizing his private experience. In his opinion, if a particular model worked in his situation, then it would work for others. But this does not always happen.
Does not crush authority
Learn as much as possible about the mentor tactics you have to work with. There are mentors who make hypotheses, and there are those who not only prompt, but also help put decisions into practice. And exactly how they do it is also an important point. There are those who literally insist on their opinion, as they say, “push” the mentees. However, a good tracker does not give advice, it refrains from evaluations - but it offers a lot of useful information (finds, for example, bottlenecks in business, growth points, helps build relationships with people in a team) and talks about their own experiences, forcing entrepreneurs to think and come independently to these or other decisions.
As for our experience, at the very beginning we were involved in organizing offline hackathons, but when we found ourselves in the Laboratory for Institutional Project Engineering (IPI Laboratory) and started talking with its chairman of the board Artur Pakhomov, we realized that technological competitions can also be held online . But the benefit of communicating with a mentor was not only that. Previously, we focused solely on the b2b segment, and the tracker showed us the possibilities in the b2c segment. Also, at his prompt, we decided to conduct regional offline events not on our own, but to attract local partners. We were sure that the main thing was sales, pursued operating profit, and the mentor directed us in the other direction, explaining that it was necessary to develop relations with regional organizers and expand the community of users of the platform.
Then the company took part in the Billionaire Schools contest, Florian Jansen, one of the founders and owners of Lamoda, became our mentor. His advice was mainly about management. Thanks to him, we realized how to more effectively control the work of subordinates (in the format of verification, rather than strict discipline), and we also became more modest in matters of accruing ourselves, as business owners, salaries and bonuses, introduced the OKR project management method (Objectives & Key Results) , which allows you to synchronize team and individual work due to the hierarchy of goals and indicators.
There are many examples on the market, as start-up entrepreneurs, having analyzed the entrepreneurial experience of the mentor, then introduced useful solutions into their own business. So, the Russian company Level One, known to the intellectual public (conducts offline lectures on various topics - from fashion to art) at some point decided to expand the scope of activity and enter the online segment. The founders of the business were interested in an outside opinion, and they turned for advice to their mentor at the same School of Billionaires, Alexander Laryanovsky, managing partner of Skyeng. He did not hide from entrepreneurs how Skyeng's business processes work and what led to the success of his own company. It became clear that other goals should be among the priorities: Level One managers concluded that it was not profitable for them to go online and that they would get more profit if they continued to develop offline destinations.
The fact that some entrepreneurs and business angels doubt the effectiveness of working with mentors is, alas, true. Startup founders want to know what kind of specialists they are and where they are trained. In the IIDF, where certification of trackers is carried out, they believe that it is necessary to introduce uniform standards for assessing their competencies (now each accelerator puts forward its own set of requirements for business mentors). What will it give? As the director of the Accelerator of IIDF Dmitry Kalaev noted, there are mentors who qualitatively promote startups that are at the initial stage of development, and there are those who more efficiently help companies with millions of dollars in revenue. In this sense, not just certification is important, but certification by level, that is, with assigning a certain category to the tracker. This will give entrepreneurs an understanding of what specific business processes a mentor will help build.
It works for the result
Almost every second entrepreneur thinks more about the process, not about the result. More precisely, goals - short-term and long-term - are set by everyone, but far from many measure intermediate results. An experienced mentor - as a person from the outside, a specialist who does not delve into the details of a particular business - should make you think for short periods. For example, the company planned to attract several new large customers during the year, change its business model, make its first international sales or enter a new customer segment. To understand whether it is moving towards its intended goal, it is necessary to evaluate the work every week or month, because it may happen that most of the functions that employees perform are quickly redundant and some internal processes have to be restructured.
Knows how to be tough
Taking a student entrepreneur out of the comfort zone is another important aspect in the mentor's work. If the mentor was able to convince the ward for the benefit of the business to abandon the use of old technologies or make an unpopular decision, this is a big plus. Few entrepreneurs understand that there are a dozen of the main growth diseases common to any business, and if you do not take them into account, continuing to claim that “everything is different with us,” sooner or later it will lead to a bad result. By the end of 2018, Crypt-On.io had created many different products and expanded its staff. There were new ideas, but there is no understanding whether to implement them. The founder of Crypt-On.io Pavel Andreev turned for advice to a well-known businessman, the creator of such projects as Lifepay, Payqr, Acselerator.ru, Vyacheslav Semenchuk. Work with the mentor began with an interview with the whole team. Semenchuk asked questions to everyone - who does what, for what tasks the team is responsible for. He also spent the whole day with the head of the company: he looked at what kind of work he does, how he organizes the time, asked many different questions relating not only to business. The result of communication with the mentor was a reduction in the number of contractors and part of the employees of Crypt-On.io. This, according to Andreev, saved about $ 35,000 per month, which the businessman is now investing in his new project.
What does the rapid growth of the mentor institute mean in recent years? That a business, at least a small one, is becoming more and more massive and more and more professional. And so, there are no mentors in it. Like in any profession.
How to find a mentor or mentor in business and life
I have long wanted to write an article on the topic of search mentor or mentor in business.
Recently, a colleague from ArtJoker posted a request with active discussion. “There is demand,” I thought.
I will describe my personal experience, which, of course, is based on the “shoulders of the great” - the experience of other people.
Perhaps find the right one mentor even harder than mate. Both there and there it is not accepted to systematize and plan this process. In both cases, the choice will determine future life.
On the other hand, if you know who and why you are looking for, then, most likely, you will soon have the opportunity. Since you are looking for you will be constantly on the radar.
Why do we need mentors
It goes without saying that going with a guide will be much easier, and often more interesting. Moreover, from my own experience in mountaineering, I know that with intermediate and lower preparation it is worthwhile to ascend only with an experienced instructor.
The problem with all owners and directors is that there is usually no one above them who could direct them and support them with efficient advice. Partly helping communities and colleagues. But, alas, at the same time, there is not enough systematic ability that an experienced mentor.
Further, regular communication with the Person with a capital letter inspires new successes and significantly expands the picture of life.
It is believed that a person’s income is equal to the arithmetic average of the income of his environment. Even if you don’t measure everything with money, it’s clear that productive communication with a person who has achieved results ten times greater than us is a serious request for revising many things and approaches.
Almost always, mentors are also access to new connections. My older comrades shared their contacts with me with pleasure and helped on issues in various fields.
And the most important, in my opinion, is advice and support on current situations.
We are used to acting on the basis of our habits and the opinion of a person “from the mountain” significantly expands the range of solutions.
Who are my mentors and how I found them
In various books on effectiveness, I read about the need for life guides. Purposefully, I was not always looking for them.
To my surprise, successful, strong people with pleasure disinterestedly help beginners. Often to the detriment of their affairs. This is definitely worth considering when you are in search mode.
Kanevets George Evdokimovich - Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor
academician of 4 Ukrainian and 9 foreign academies of sciences (Russia, England, USA), doctor of technical sciences, professor. Президент-основатель Академии наук технологической кибернетики Украины, президент-основатель Международной академии наук, технологий и инжиниринга.
С ГЕК-ом, так он себя называет, мы познакомились на его лекциях по стратегическому управлению в Харьковском политехе. С тех пор уже более 10 лет общение с ним доставляет мне огромное удовольствие и отношения с ним я очень ценю.
А началось с того, что я подходил к Георгию Евдокимовичу на парах и беседовал на политические и общественные темы. Потом преподаватель стал приглашать к себе домой на чай и мы продолжали беседы там.
HEC teaches by its example to never lose heart, always work uncontrollably and force yourself to work daily.
His work experience and personal life story are encouraging.
WITH Abdurahman Shaykhalov I met somewhere in 2008 at the Kharkov Club of Entrepreneurs. Then I just took the first steps in my business.
Abdurakhman is an experienced entrepreneur and negotiator, recently concentrated on real estate, both in Kharkov and abroad, in particular in Montenegro.
I began to turn to him just for advice on negotiations, the situation with the customer.
It was insanely pleasant when an already successful entrepreneur did not spare time and parsed my case with the client on the bones.
Now Abdurahman helps me take my first steps in real estate and even in financial instruments.
Chatillo Vyacheslav Viktorovich - Also an experienced entrepreneur, founder of the Abis business school. Now mainly advises large Kharkov retail companies.
My friend Stas recommended that I go to classes in the school of managers. He said that for him, getting to know this man was the most significant event in his life over the past three years. After a while, something like that I myself have already said.
Vyacheslav Viktorovich instilled in me a culture of financial and regular planning. My wife sometimes even jokes when I plan too much that “Châtillo bit you”.
Châtillo also infects and surprises with its optimism, efficiency, ability to delve into details in a focused manner.
Alexey Skrypnik - Founder of IT company Eleks, with a development center in Lviv, a public figure and deputy of the Verkhovna Rada.
I met Alexei at our conference Outsource People back in Kharkov in 2013. Since then, Alexey has been speaking at almost all of our conferences in Kiev and even in Minsk with first-class and lively presentations. Closed meetings are separate words at which he tells lively, vivid stories and, most importantly, instructive stories from his rich experience.
I turned to the founder of Eleks with a request to advise how to develop my IT company, and Alex, to my surprise, agreed to help. Once in one or two months we meet and Alexey advises on current situations and suggests steps for further development.
Alexander Orlov - An experienced manager and Internet entrepreneur, managing partner at the Stratoplan School of Managers.
Before (and after) I asked Alexandra to help with the Bright Outsource project, I watched with interest his project Stratoplan. I continue to follow now. From the very beginning and until now, this project is an example for me to follow.
I already vaguely remember exactly how we met, but for a long time we invited each other to online and live events and organized joint projects.
At the Minsk conference in the spring of 2016, I asked Sasha to advise me from time to time on the development of the educational business, which Alexander does with dedication.
Personal mentoring experience
I myself have long been trying to help friends and not only in my surroundings. Sometimes it looks like just tips for a cup of tea, and sometimes I also do professional coaching and mentoring.
Of the achievements - assistance in the development of start-up IT companies and consultations on business and HR conferences.
This experience allows me to better understand my mentors.
How to find a mentor and persuade to help
The person with whom you want to communicate more should be nice to you. It will be great if you share the same values with her, if you find common interests.
The question arises: why will successful and very busy people spend time on you?
The riddle, it seems to me, is revealed in the following story.
Once in Kiev, we were sitting with Alexei Skrypnik in a cafe and his friend came to us. A friend of Alexei asked what he was doing here. Alexey answered "I give back the debt."
It is clear that the debt was not my personal one. And someone once in the same way helped him with advice and support. Often these people are driven by a desire to give and help. I hope this is in the nature of every person. Even if hidden somewhere deep.
To find a mentor you need to move in several directions.
It is necessary to expand their ties. This can be done at events like meetings, conferences, and also through your personal social networks. In this case, ask your current friends who could advise on the necessary issues.
Surely there is already such a person in your environment. And you were just waiting for the release of this article, which would prompt you.
Next, you can start with a small one. Ask a question by mail or at FB. Engage in communication and start building relationships. You can almost always find intersection points, common traits of characters.
After your contact has taken place, you can ask for regular communication. For example, once a week or once a month.
You may need to be smart. A few years ago, I really wanted to meet with the soloist of a Kharkov band.
I wrote her a personal message that I brought her a gift from China and would like to meet, pass on. It is clear that it was difficult for her not to go to my meeting, just not to offend the person who brought her the present so far.
Before and during communication it will be great if you keep in touch and watch their life. FB can be configured so that their posts are displayed in your feed first. And you will always be up to date with what is happening to them, responding with comments and helping with advice - you will be on the radars of your mentors.
How to get started
The question may arise, what does work with a mentor look like. You need to be realistic - do not wait for the mentor to pull you somewhere. Although this option is possible, if it is agreed in advance. In my opinion, the mentor's task is to use his experience, his knowledge, to guide, prompt, resolve current situations, recommend what to read and where to go to learn.
The most effective are personal meetings. You should come with questions and suggestions. After all, a correctly posed question is already half the solution.
Your communication will be more fruitful if you have a ready-made solution that requires some kind of expertise. The mentor’s decision may be fundamentally different from yours. But for the mentor it is important that you do not stupidly sit, wait for a ready-made solution to the issue, but work, invest. What his efforts to teach you - give a result!
Between meetings, be sure to write down all the ideas and questions that you would like to discuss. Get ready for communication.
If you agreed on a systematic work - it is worth making a plan with priorities for the period until the next meeting. Even if your mentor does not have time for this, you can draw up a plan for yourself, for example, in the following form:
In column K, the priority coefficient is indicated, in columns “Execution” - percentage of completion, respectively.
Communication with mentors is perhaps the best pastime in my life, as with friends and family
Mentors are those people whose presence in my life encourages me to strive for new heights and help others.
It is not for nothing that they say that strong people are not those who can lower others, but those who, on the contrary, can raise to their level.
Evolve, feel free to ask for advice and be strong!
Entrepreneur is a combine harvester
Take any modern entrepreneur. Who is this person? By and large - this is a harvester that needs to know a lot of things: business economics, marketing, communication and negotiation skills, management and team building skills, law, accounting, design. This set can be continued indefinitely.
This raises the reasonable question: "Isn't it easier to delegate?"
It is possible and necessary to delegate, but before that, each entrepreneur will have to deal with many things himself. Somewhere superficial, and somewhere immersed thoroughly.
If you don’t know how to develop negotiation skills, then you won’t build a business.
You can entrust marketing to “young and ambitious guys,” who in six months will say that they did everything they could, but sales did not increase. After that, live with a picture of the world that no one needs your product and marketing does not work.
Well, if you completely outsource the bookkeeping and do not delve into the issues, you can one day get news from the tax office with a substantial fine or even see mask shows in your own office.
In order to close such “gaps” of the entrepreneur and get an outside look at his business in the West, there has long been a model of business mentoring. In Russia, this direction is only emerging.
Let's start with the concept of a business mentor, he is a mentor. What kind of person is this?
Business mentor - This is an experienced entrepreneur who was able to build his profitable company and is ready to share his experience. Moreover, a mentor is also contacts and useful contacts that have been developed over years of work in a business niche.
From the definition above it follows that a real business mentor is not a media businessman or trainer who earns solely from selling his knowledge through countdown landing pages. Here the emphasis is precisely on the living experience from the business that the mentor has right now.
Why should an entrepreneur become a mentor?
I also asked such a question. If the owner has an operating business that generates income, why spend time helping someone?
Having talked with them directly I heard such answers:
- Other people helped me in due time, now I also want to return the “debt”.
- In the summer (or in the fall, winter, spring) I have no season in business, so I am ready at this time to be a mentor.
- Giving - you receive. No matter how trite it may sound, some responded with phrases that came down to just such a formulation.
“I'm just curious.”
But there were those who refused to become a mentor, referring to employment.
Who needs a mentor:
1) Beginning entrepreneurs in order to quickly enter the market, while making fewer mistakes. And mistakes in business are always a loss of money. I bought the wrong equipment, put the catering point in the wrong place, ordered marketing from amateurs. There can be a lot of problems.
2) To existing entrepreneurs. Communicating with different business owners, I see that for many years they have been banging their heads on the same gates. Profits only fall, employees work poorly, there is no marketing strategy. There is simply not enough sight from an experienced person.
More recently, I met the owner of a company that sells climate equipment in a large city. The site man has not been updated for 5 years! It looks like a student’s hack: there is no catalog, no forms work, the design is from 2005. He says that due to the emergence of competitors, profits have fallen dramatically. Well really!
Who does not need a mentor:
1) If you have a friend, a successful entrepreneur, not one who sells crushed stone through a landing, but one that makes good money and is ready to dive into your business and give valuable recommendations *. This can only be envied.
2) Your business blooms and grows exponentially.
* It may not work if a friend sells farm cheese in Moscow, and you, for example, do a startup for the American market.
How and where to look for a mentor?
1) Ask your friends and acquaintances, perhaps among them there is someone who wants to become your mentor.
2) Search Facebook for people creating a similar (but not identical) product or service.
3) Use the services of finding a mentor. For example, United Mentors
Be prepared that the search may take some time.
In both cases, do not look for “business superstars”, a mentor is needed 1-2 heads higher than you, not higher, otherwise he will not be interested in working with you.
What to offer the mentor?
So what to offer the mentor in return for his time?
1) Some mentors can be negotiated for free.
2) Set a fixed payment once a month.
3) Professional mentors (those who teach at various technological universities) may ask for a stake in the company. But this is worth going only in the case of a person already familiar to you. And conclude a contract.
How to work with a mentor?
I can tell you from my own experience. I called up my mentor every Friday at the same time. He asked what I did in a week, expressed his opinion, offered to finalize some points, asked very necessary questions, which allowed me to look at problems and new facets in my project. And so on until next Friday.
In addition, during the week I asked urgent questions in the messenger.
If you are also interested in the topic of mentoring, write questions in the comments or PM.
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