As Luke had his Yoda, so does a startup CEO need a mentor. Here are some tips for what to look for in a mentor.
Being the CEO of a company, especially a startup, can be a lonely spot. For this reason, I strongly advocate having a mentor. Finding the right mentor, however, may be more important than having one. In this blog I talk about how to recruit a mentor, what qualities to look for, and touch briefly on the compensation.
Finding the right mentor should not be a random choice or one done without some consideration. The mentor you choose should have an understanding of your business and why decisions are being made the way they are. Preferably, the chosen mentor has been an entrepreneur and CEO as well. That's not to suggest a mentor should be involved in day-to-day decision making, however. Someone with experience, who maintains a safe distance from the daily business activities, can offer much-needed perspective.
First, a mentor needs to be a good listener: A good mentor will guide an entrepreneur through the process and empower him or her to come up with the right answer, not give answers. Indeed, the entrepreneur has the great advantage of knowing the business better than anyone else. The role of the mentor is to help the entrepreneur sift through many options or give him or her a boost of confidence to implement a new program.
That's why building a great mentor relationship includes open lines of communication. It is a dialog where each of you approaches the other by asking questions on why and how decisions are made. The discussion will flow from there.
Think of it as establishing a peer-to-peer relationship because you will be working at a personal level. The mentor will serve as a sounding board and can help through the emotional ups and downs. And, there will be many.
Obviously, you're wondering how to go about finding the right person. The answer is there's a maze of different possibilities. A good place to start is to consider which entrepreneurs or corporate executives you admire and want to emulate. That's not to say they will accept your proffered invitation. Or, that they're a good fit once you get to know them. It's well worth making the effort because they may refer you to someone who is a better fit.
Your own network should be tapped, too, to identify potential mentor candidates with relevant experience. Having first-hand, working knowledge of an industry is what to look for. Ask around to find out his or her reputation to better assess strengths or perceived weaknesses.