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Why your startup needs a mentor

Image Credit – African Leadership Magazine

We all know Steve Jobs and the Apple that changed the world. We also know Mark Zuckerberg and how he created Facebook while at Harvard. But did you know that Jobs was once a mentor to Zuckerberg?

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg is not the only self-made billionaire who had a mentor; Bill Gates was mentored by Warren Buffet and even the unconventional Sir Richard Branson sought guidance from Sir Freddie Laker, a British airline entrepreneur.

Now that is some food for thought – any idea, no matter how brilliant needs a seasoned hand or a mentor to help see it through.

My experience has seen that nearly 95% of startups in India shut down within a year of incorporation and lack of experienced mentorship is often a major cause. With the entrepreneurial bug going around for a few years and the Government of India’s endeavours to make setting up a business easier, I often see that most start-up owners are fresh out of B-school or with just a couple of years of experience.

Someone once told me, “I wish entrepreneurs seek out mentors as aggressively as they look for a co-founder,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Here are my top 5 reasons on why your startup needs a mentor.

  1. The experience they bring

A mentor has on ground expertise and knowledge of running a business. They have collected this knowledge with years of experience and dealing with real-life situations and crisis.

No amount of self-help books can match this knowledge and the experience they bring can be an invaluable asset you get at no cost. Your chances of success automatically increase if you work closely with an experienced professional as your mentor.

While you will certainly make mistakes, hopefully with a mentor you will learn from their slip-ups instead and make your own new ones!

  1. The networking leeway

Networking is everything when you are starting out – being connected to the right people at the right time and being seen at the right platforms.

Mentors usually have an expansive business network – clients, investors, suppliers. In fact, investors usually go for startups that are recommended to them through their own business contacts, friends and colleagues. Your chances of funding too become higher if you get a mentor who really believes in your venture.

A mentor can truly open doors for you.

  1. To ask the tough questions

Most entrepreneurs start their ventures in high zeal. Your associates and co-founders will also share this enthusiasm and in all this excitement, you might end up overlooking a few critical aspects.

Your mentor will show you the mirror in such scenarios – point out the holes in your business plan, help you perfect your pitch deck and even help out when crisis lands on your door.

Your mentor can also play the bad cop occasionally and ask the questions you were avoiding, thus really getting you to think about your business without being complacent.

  1. Development of a stronger EQ

While technical soundness is important, having a strong EQ is becoming more and more imperative. An eccentric, moody genius is a thing of the past and is acceptable only in the movies.

While I believe that age and maturity have nothing to do with each other, a sense of maturity in business is crucial and that usually only comes with time. As a young entrepreneur, if you are engaging with a more seasoned, experienced one, while carefully observing how he/she conducts business, you will only enhance your Emotional Quotient more.

It is easy to get high strung and carried away when it comes to business decisions and if you have a mature entrepreneur as your mentor, chances are you too will keep a level head and have a greater control over your emotions.

  1. Encouragement and motivation

You win some and you lose some. Failure is part and parcel of the entrepreneurial life and what is most important is how easily you pick yourself up. Believe me, it is not easy and the toughest ones amongst us can fall apart because your own business is one of the closest things to you. Depression amongst entrepreneurs is more common than you think.

This is where your mentor will come in – someone who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business and will expertly guide you through tough times.

Beyond this too, people work best with encouragement and motivation and as an owner of a startup, you are no different too. Trust me, a pat on the back and a few words of reassurance from your mentor can go a long way in keeping you on track.

Being in the business for a fair number of years, I too am mentor to budding entrepreneurs including Salaam Swipe, a community focussed match-making app and Krioto, a DIY design website.

As the famed American musician John Crosby once said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.”

Does your startup have a mentor? Leave me a comment on how you are seeking guidance for your venture.

Kalyan Gali
Kalyan Gali
An enterprising professional and an astute strategist with an impressive track record of nearly 17 years in setting up tech start-ups globally, product & technology consulting, product design, process operations and implementing strategic interventions. An incredible professional journey of several challenges and opportunities, I commenced my career as a Software Engineer, UX/UI Design lead and then have worked in senior positions as a Sr. Director-Technology, VP-Product Development, Tech Innovation Manager and Media Head with renowned IT corporates. Presently, I am handling diverse assignments as an Independent Entrepreneur /Expert Strategist/ Consultant. Known best as a passionate leader and a Technology Evangelist, I have outstanding contributions in enhancing revenue streams by recommending tactical solutions, implementing best business practices, technology transfers, facilitating creative synergies and streamlining the operational framework. I have extensive experience in the areas of Product Management & Consulting, Business Development, P&L Management, Media & Communication Strategies, Research, and Content Management. Demonstrated excellence in Technical Administration, Masterminding Business Expansion plans, Optimising Resources and establishing the Systems & processes in place along with a high level of client satisfaction. Deft in analysing the business dynamics, visualising big picture, managing multiple stakeholders and providing leadership to the cross-functional teams. I am a people-oriented leader, strongly believing in maintaining long term mutually beneficial relationships by way of effective communication and collaborative efforts. Entrepreneurship is in my genes. My dad and mom have inspired me to do things differently and be a trend-setter. I have learned the skills of business handling, strategy and people management from my parents.

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