Beware Mentors Who Aren’t

Posted on July 23, 2011. Filed under: Advice, Mentor, Recruitment | Tags: , , , , , |

Have you ever sought a mentor to help you with your business? If so, you will have asked yourself how you find a good one.

Mentors can provide a lot of help but some can do a lot of damage. Just as there is a lot of damage that can be done if you get involved with the wrong investors.

Now it’s relatively easy to tell an angel by just asking questions about what investments they have made. But how do you verify a mentor? After all we can all claim to be mentors. Far fewer can claim and prove to be angel investors. An angel investment is not one unless it involves a concrete monetary transaction.

Anyway what defines a mentor-mentee transaction?

  • A conversation in a corridor?
  • An in-depth frank conversation between you and a critical friend?
  • A constructive exchange between a junior executive and experienced senior colleague?

It’s not so clear is it?  Mentoring is a fuzzy topic.

So how do you tell if somebody is going to be a good business mentor for you?

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Ask who they have mentored before? When was that? For how long did the relationship last?
  2. Ask for references and even better ask to speak with previous mentees
  3. You might also ask other mentors what they think your prospective mentor.

Now you can do that yourself but I am glad to say that a new organisation has recently been set-up that does that for you. The Association of Business Mentors does that for members before they join. Quite astonishingly no such organisation like this existed, in the UK, until now. So I am delighted that is no longer the case and I am flattered to have been asked to be an inaugural member.

More importantly the aim of this not-for-profit Association is to link you with credible, successful mentors so that business owners can feel confident when seeking a business mentor. All members of the association have been carefully screened, ensuring that you will receive a professional service and that your chosen mentor has a proven record of successful mentoring. All members are required to sign up to a code of ethics, are encouraged to undertake regular training and share best practice. The entire emphasis for members is on their client’s success.

This is a great service to our business community but it should not stop you from doing your own due diligence too. Nowadays it’s easy using LinkedIn and other online profiles. Remember too that gaps and non-disclosure on a LinkedIn profile can be as bad a sign as they are on a CV.

If the mentor is not on LinkedIn, or their profile is thin, then you have to question how much they can help you anyway. Embracing social media is nowadays, or soon wil be, vital for every business. Do you really want a mentor who does not get it?

Good mentors won’t feel you are bothering them if you ask them questions. Indeed they will be impressed with your professionalism.

So ask yourself questions like:

  • Does he listen? Or does he/she interrupt or talk over you? How much of the time does he/she spend talking and how much do you?
  • At what stage do they start asking about money?
  • Ask yourself if this person feels more like a consultant than a mentor.
  • Do you really think this person cares about you?
  • Do you trust this person?

Last but not least: Trust your gut instincts.

Do you have experiences of mentors you are willing to share here, for the benefit of other readers?


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    I help entrepreneurs and small high growth potential companies in Sussex, Surrey, London & sometimes further afield. Flexible to your needs but typically help in raising investment finance and mentoring. Previously I was co-founder, CTO then CEO of a software company which we sold to a NASDAQ listed company


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