71% of fortune 500 companies have an internal mentorship program, and all major business success stories will involve a good mentor or two. The right mentor will advocate for you, and help you prepare to tackle your latest hurdles. A good mentor will have been there and done that and can warn you about missteps before they occur.
In fact, a UPS study of entrepreneurs showed that 70% of small businesses owners that receive mentoring survive 5 years or more. Currently in Canada, there are approximately 3.5 Million entrepreneurs in Canada. Unfortunately, 20% of start-ups fail in their first year, and 60% fail in the first three years.
Dr Amit Monga, one of our Bhive mentors, is a seasoned finance and business executive. He serves on the boards of Infrastructure Ontario, University of Toronto Press, and is an advisor to Yaletown Partners, and the Ontario Centre for Innovation. At BHive, Dr. Monga is leading the initiative on mentor and innovation ecosystem engagement and took the time to give advice on mentor etiquette. If you’re an international entrepreneur looking to break into the North American market, read on to find out the best way to secure a mentor and foster your mentor relationships.
Etiquette for Finding Business Members
If you are looking for business members, you need to be aware of some proper etiquette so that you attract quality mentors. Here are a few quick tips:
Establish a Good Online Presence
A good online profile can make a difference between you getting a yes or no from a potential mentor. So, take the time and effort to create a compelling profile that will capture your mentor’s interest and get them excited about developing a mentorship relationship with you.
Besides a professional photo and bio, we advise you to include an “elevator pitch” that states specific issues you’re trying to address. Doing this will give your potential mentor a first-hand idea of how they can help you. If you’re sending out a cold email or message don’t ask for more than 15 minutes of a potential mentor’s time. If you can’t communicate what your business does and what you need help with in that time frame, make some more time to firm up what you can really ask your mentor for help with.
Research Your Potential Mentor
When you’re looking for a potential mentor, don’t just reach out to the first person who you run into. At BHive, we have designed a series of program interviews to match you with your ideal mentor before you join our incubator. If you’re not fortunate enough to receive a plethora of potential mentors, find a mentor whose experience or expertise is relevant to your area because they’d leave you with far better information and advice that would likely help your business grow faster than you thought possible.
Make Your First Message Professional
After researching a few potential mentors and their backgrounds, it’s time to make your initial connection. The best way to get a response is a clear, concise, and personalized message. Start with a 1-2 sentence introduction for yourself and your company, then get straight to the point about why you want to get in touch with them. This message should focus on pitching your significance and the value a mentor can bring to your business.
Your first meeting with a potential mentor can be a short phone call or face-to-face. Either way, we recommend communicating with your mentor professionally, so don’t overwhelm them with questions. Use your initial meeting as an opportunity to build rapport with your potential mentor. If you can engage them in the idea of your business, they’ll be excited about the opportunities you’re bringing them.
Dr. Monga’s advice is “You have to ensure your presentation is well rehearsed. One of the best meetings I had with a company looking for a mentor was when the CEO already had a company presentation ready to go. In the first 10 minutes of our meeting, I got a good sense of the core business of the company, I asked questions regarding market fit and opportunities, and the CEO was prepared for all of my questions. In the following 10 minutes, I already had a sense of what the founder was trying to accomplish. We were able to have a very productive first meeting where I could give actionable advice.”
Preparing for Mentor Meetings
Most mentors have an unpaid position, and these business people are taking time out of their full time jobs and paying clients to help you. As with your initial meeting, all subsequent meetings should have just as much prep work.
Develop your Mentor Connection
If you’re an international founder immigrating to Canada, one of the important things to remember is that there may be big cultural differences in how the business is conducted. Canadians are friendly people, who value relationships just as much as they value getting work done. As notoriously polite people, communication may be indirect, so ensure that you understand what you’re bringing to the table and have your expectations clearly laid out.
So, if relationship management takes time, how can you be sure that a business mentor will be someone worth working with? The first step is building rapport and taking time to know and share ideas with your future mentor. If you’re too worried about sharing proprietary information or creating competition, then start the conversation without disclosing confidential information. Most of the mentors don’t sign an NDA.
Presenting Your Goals & Expectations
When preparing for a mentoring meeting, it’s important to remember that this is your opportunity. It’s not the mentor’s responsibility to provide an agenda or keep you on track. So, be proactive and come up with your set of goals or what would you like to achieve from this mentorship. Prepare for business-related questions that you’ll want your mentor to answer, and make a game-plan on when and how to follow up on progress or roadblocks.
Dr Monga says, “Be realistic about your business goals, and be open to your mentor’s feedback. Your questions should be specific and relevant to your mentor’s industry. One of the most frequent mistakes new founders will make is not knowing the difference between asking for advice and asking your mentor to do the work for you.”
Decide on Mentoring Schedules
As a business owner, you’re busy taking care of your company. Use your mentor’s knowledge and experience to troubleshoot and look for direction, but find a time frame that works for your mentor. Give them a few availabilities to ensure they can make time in their busy schedules.
Dr. Monga says, “A mentor who’s giving you time is generally going to be interested in your outcomes, and a good mentor will be looking to follow up on plans made. To get the most out of your mentor, be forthcoming and keep them in the loop when business plans change or advance.”
Finding a Mentor Through a Business Accelerator Program
There are a lot of mentors to choose from, but how do you know who will be a good mentor for your business or startup? You may want to look at the benefits of working with a business accelerator program or incubator. These include:
Mentorship Networking Opportunities
Accelerators provide you with a wealth of knowledge and resources once you’re in their program. They have connections to help you succeed and create networking opportunities that turn into mentorship relationships.
Devoted to Your Success
Business accelerator programs are specifically designed to — as the name suggests — accelerate your business. You can trust that they have all the resources and staff to work for your best interests, and that includes finding the right mentor.
Peer Mentoring Opportunities
One of the best resources that may not be initially apparent to you in your accelerator program is the help of other founders. A great business incubator, like BHive, ensures that you have lots of opportunities to learn from other people trying to grow companies in a similar market. Take advantage of networking opportunities to find interesting connections. You never know who can help you solve your problems.
On top of that, a good accelerator program can help you connect with investors and get funding while getting a mentor at the same time. It’s effectively a one-stop-shop for all your business’s needs, not just mentorship.
Start a Successful Business Today
Not sure how to expand your start-up into the North American market? BHive is an innovative partnership between the City of Brampton and Toronto Business Development Centre.
TBDC is Toronto’s first start-up incubator. Our Start-up Visa program was designed to help you reach Canada and take your business international. If you’re searching for a mentor which will help your start-up business become a unicorn, TBDC & BHive have the resources and expertise to help you grow your business. Want to see if you’re ready? Book a call today!