Dangers of Startup Mentors Mentors Can Be Hugely Beneficial, but the Relationship Has Risks, too
Dangers of Startup Mentors: I was a startup mentor for many years. So, why would I warn entrepreneurs about the dangers of using mentors? My warnings are based on my understanding of how such relationships can go wrong.
The user of a mentor, or mentee (yes, it’s in the dictionary) should expect more in value than he considers he’s paying for. Remember that you are at risk, the mentor is not. Good mentors probably don’t identify themselves as mentors, but find fulfillment from helping others take a journey that they have experienced.
However, it’s a two-way relationship. Know that the mentor gets benefit as well as you. Be clear about what you expect from the relationship. I suggest you write down what you need from a startup mentor, even before you start looking for one. The dangers of startup mentors are many.
Here are some of them:
- The mentor’s advice may be wrong;
- If the mentor is the only source of advice, you may be misled;
- The mentor may offer advice even if she lacks specific experience or knowledge;
- Sometimes, the mentor’s own motivation may get in the way;
- Avoid delegating your own decision-making to the mentor;
- Your may have selected a mentor who is a bad fit with your needs;
- If the mentor shows little interest in your purpose and personal goals, or doesn’t share your values, find another one;
- Turn down the mentor who asks for a time-based or lengthy contract—the commitment must be based on trust;
- Don’t hesitate to say if the mentor falls short of your expectations;
- Do not fail to reflect back what ideas the mentor tries to share, to ensure your have understood.
Alternatives to Startup Mentors
Venture founders will get great advantage from working with a startup mentor, but one that does not ‘get’ your vision, might be both a waste of time and lead you down rabbit holes.
There are several alternatives to using a startup mentor. Some cost nothing, particularly those that involve joining a community, or keeping your eyes open, or searching the internet or LinkedIn.
Here are some means you could try so that you avoid the dangers of startup mentors:
- find a relevant Meetup group in your locality;
- join a business incubator or accelerator—find one in this Directory;
- contact your nearest Small Business Development Center;
- find a mentor through SCORE;
- consider courses to develop missing skills; they could be online or at a local college
Naturally I recommend using a mentor, but I want you to know the risks before you get started. I am well aware of them, since I have mentored many would be entrepreneurs, both successful and unsuccessful. Though we don’t work together anymore, there are many with whom I maintain relationships.
Before you get too far down the track, read my Startup Mentor Checklist.