Business Ideas

Boost your business with valuable insights from a trusted mentor

Enhance your business with guidance from a mentor

In the midst of a challenging operational landscape, the inclusion of a mentor in a startup can greatly improve the prospects of your business’s survival, as highlighted by FELIX OLOYEDE.

Supporting startups can be tough, especially in Nigeria. The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria states that 80% of SMEs fail within five years due to economic challenges, lack of funding, and inadequate business strategies. To overcome this, businesses require mentorship.

To help startups, institutions, and companies thrive in the Basel Area, Basel Area Business & Innovation defines a startup mentor as a person or organization that provides valuable advice and guidance to a startup company.

A mentor is an experienced individual with expertise in your industry who is prepared to assist you in navigating the challenges that arise when starting a business. They are readily available to provide guidance and help you avoid any pitfalls in your day-to-day operations.

Marcel Deer from HubSpot explains that mentors offer important guidance and assistance to entrepreneurs as they navigate the initial phases of developing their companies.

He mentioned that venture capitalists and angel investors invest money, while startup mentors invest their time and expertise.

By engaging in mentorships, founders can discover untapped possibilities, navigate challenges, and embrace change.

Research on 700 startup founders showed that 33% of the top-performing founders shared a common experience – they were mentored by successful entrepreneurs at the beginning.

The world’s top business leaders often credit their success to having mentors. Bill Gates, for instance, was mentored by Warren Buffet, while Steve Jobs sought guidance from John Sculley, the former President of PepsiCo and later CEO of Apple, as well as Ed Woolard, the chairman and CEO of DuPont.

Seasoned mentors play a crucial role in providing an impartial evaluation of a business’s strengths and weaknesses. While business owners may have a personal attachment to their ideas, mentors possess the knowledge to recognize when it’s necessary to accept losses and make necessary changes.

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According to Dr Uju Ogubunka, mentors play a vital role in startups by offering guidance and inspiration. It is essential to choose a mentor who is knowledgeable in your field to ensure proper guidance.

Basel Area Business & Innovation has categorized mentors for startups into three distinct types. They are:

Individual coaching

This individual is a friend or someone you know who is mentoring you and assisting with the development of your startup. They are consistently there to aid in the growth of your business.

This mentorship is the most casual and informal type. It’s less structured than other options and is usually offered for free.

Having a private mentor may lead to less commitment due to fewer obligations. To address this issue, it’s important to establish an agreement with your mentor to clarify expectations regarding time and goals.

Nurseries/Incubator

A Nurseries serves as a formalized method of mentorship. Sometimes referred to as a mentorship program, an incubator is an organization that aids a founder in advancing from the ideation phase to the development of a pitch or prototype.

Typically, an incubator or nurseries is provided as a complimentary service; however, there might be a nominal charge to offset some expenses associated with mentorship or office space.

In many cases, nurseries provide access to mentors who are available for consultations, discussions, and occasional visits to your startup location for lunches and Q&A sessions.

While incubators usually offer various mentorship opportunities, it is not obligatory for startups to avail them. Startups are generally responsible for seeking out mentorship themselves, as incubators typically do not proactively extend mentorship offers.

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Accelerators/Fast-trackers

Startups with a minimum viable product or proof of concept can seek assistance from fast-trackers, which are organizations or programs dedicated to facilitating their rapid growth in a short span. These fast-trackers usually require a fee, often in the form of equity, and typically collaborate with startups for a specific duration of 3-6 months.

A mentor, specifically chosen to match the needs of a startup, is typically provided by fast-trackers. These mentors will closely guide and assist the startups for a period of 3–6 months.

As part of an accelerator program, you will often be connected with mentors who can provide specialized guidance. For example, they may assign an HR mentor to help you in assembling a team, a lawyer to assist you with legal documentation and ensure the protection of your startup’s intellectual property, or a business mentor who has firsthand experience in successfully launching startups to collaborate with you.

The presence of a mentor brings forth several advantages that you can enjoy:

Enhanced connectivity and expanded access to a broader network and resource pool

Leveraging networks is crucial for startups, as they are valuable assets. Mentors offer access to their extensive resources, built up through years of experience, which can prove beneficial in multiple ways.

The connections your mentors have can be instrumental in achieving your first business breakthrough. By tapping into their established credibility, you can gain a valuable advantage.

Refined Decision-Making

A competent mentor can assist you, as a new startup founder, in making more informed strategic and operational choices. With their expertise, they are able to analyze issues more rigorously than you, a novice. Your mentor will offer an impartial perspective on the business and the market.

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Seeking mentorship is key when it comes to making informed decisions regarding investor choices, resource allocation, and investment opportunities. Moreover, mentors can offer guidance in assembling a competent leadership team, defining clear short- and long-term objectives, and much more.

Risk management

In the realm of business, taking risks is inevitable. This underscores the importance of risk management in ensuring the triumph of a business, particularly in the case of startups. A mentor can provide valuable insights on which risks to undertake and how to manage them effectively.

Mentors have already explored the possibilities, so they have knowledge of the potential pitfalls and can offer advice to help you steer clear of the errors they made during their own startup journeys.

Personal and Professional Progress

Mentorship plays a crucial role in capacity development, making it an invaluable resource. It is a cost-effective approach that can greatly enhance one’s abilities. For example, a mentor can provide valuable insights on cash flow management, which is often a challenge for startups. Additionally, they can assist with product registration, navigating regulatory processes, and establishing connections with vendors. The guidance and support offered by a mentor in these areas can prove to be immensely beneficial.

Trust in oneself and determination

Starting a new business can feel like a lot to handle and isolating. Having a mentor can offer encouragement to help business owners stay on track, tackle obstacles, and move closer to their objectives.

Business owners can rely on mentors not only for guidance but also for managing stress, combating feelings of self-doubt or loneliness, and receiving emotional support. The invaluable aspect lies in the fact that mentors have personally experienced similar struggles and emerged victorious, which can greatly benefit new founders.

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