By Donna Lewis-Mackenzie, Principal, Group LM3
My business partner, Mitchel Laskey, and I have been invited by Starter Studio in Orlando to be part of a team of mentors for their third class of technology start-ups. We’ll be meeting regularly with the founders of these hopeful enterprises to share advice and guidance on everything from building a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) to strategies around intellectual property, to raising capital.
We’re pleased to offer assistance because Mitchel and I have both experienced the value of a good mentor throughout our careers. Because Orlando is our home base, we like the idea of helping those that will, in turn, help to generate new jobs in Central Florida and add to our blossoming tech scene.
While this mentor-mentee relationship is a kind of growth hack for start-ups, we also realize there is something to be said for mentoring at all stages of a company’s growth. In fact, we see the advisory services we deliver to mid-market tech companies as a type of mentorship. We don’t simply analyze and make recommendations to companies facing growth challenges. We “embed” with the senior leadership team to help them operationalize and optimize around our findings and recommendations. When a client requires additional help, whether ad hoc or long-term, we can bring our Collaboration Network of subject matter and operating executives to the table. In a sense, a team of flexible mentors to work alongside a client’s own team.
Finding a Mentor
Not every start-up founder or C-level exec in an established company has ready access to a mentor. And you probably won’t find them in an old Yellow Pages directory. There are a growing number of tech accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, and grant-supported entrepreneur centers around the nation that can be sources for mentors and other resources. Leadership networks such as Vistage and YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) may also provide expanded options for executive leaders.
Venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur James Altucher proposes three categories of mentors: direct, indirect and “everything is a mentor.” He ought to know, Altucher has helped to found more than 20 companies and claims to have failed at 17 of them (!). I think his point is well taken. In today’s high-tech, high-touch world, opportunities to be mentored (and to be a mentor) abound. Places like General Assembly offer in-person as well as online courses in everything from business development and growth hacking to live Q&As with venture capitalists.
So the opportunity to connect with a mentor or mentors of some kind is out there. Being a mentor is not only a cool way to give back, but also a way to reinvigorate oneself. Nothing like teaching and guiding others to recharge our own batteries. Maybe our founding father and start-up junkie Benjamin Franklin said it best, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”