How to Get the Most Out of Your Mentor

Entrepreneurs offer insights into business mentor relationships

Written by Seamus Kelleher.

Taking a business idea from concept to reality is not easy. In fact, it’s very hard. With stiff competition for resources, the most successful founders pursue every opportunity available to help grow their business.

Among startups, those that work closely with helpful, experienced mentors raise on average 7 times more capital and experience 3.5 times greater growth. After all, the best teacher is experience. Mentors have already accomplished navigating the tricky trail of entrepreneurship, from securing funding to scaling their business and retaining customers.

Mike Boyd is the founder & CEO of iReconCars, a platform designed to make the vehicle reconditioning process simpler and more transparent. Boyd learned the value of mentorship through his experience at Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. The iReconCars team sought a veteran entrepreneur with success building a company from the ground up, and was paired with Janis Mitchell, founder & CEO of Precise Resource, a workforce talent search firm. Janis was looking to give back by guiding to a team of innovative, driven workers, and she found that in iReconCars.

Boyd and Mitchell both extol the benefits of mentorship and offered advice to help you make the most of your mentor-mentee relationship:

  • Be passionate: Founders should seek mentors who are genuinely passionate about the industry in which they operate. Mitchell lobbied to be paired with iReconCars because of a lifetime love for cars, having grown up around a brother who fixed and raced them. Authentic interest always shows, and it motivates all parties involved to work harder towards their goals.
  • Be transparent: The cornerstones of any professional relationship are honesty and accountability. To build trust and respect between a mentor and mentee, both must know that the other can be relied on. If something won’t be completed on deadline, let the other person know in advance, and give an honest explanation of why. Boyd and Mitchell both stressed the importance of being able to rely on and trust on the other.
  • Establish clear goals: Set realistic but ambitious short term goals. When a team is on the same page regarding objectives, Boyd and Mitchell agree they work together more cohesively to achieve them. Make sure your goals are attainable, but still lofty, to rally the team together and maintain focus on improving your business. Short term milestones help keep everyone locked in while preventing fatigue, and keep both parties feeling like their efforts are worthwhile.
  • Keep lines of communication open: Be responsive to emails and phone calls. If your mentor or mentee takes the time to reach out to you, it’s incumbent on you to respond in a timely fashion to let them know their message was received. If you’re not immediately available, offer an alternative time to connect. Entrepreneurs, both the mentor and mentee, value their time greatly. Playing phone tag or exchanging email after email will only serve to waste the others’ time and leave them feeling underappreciated.

“iReconCars is going to do amazing things, and I’m so glad I get to help them along the way. We determined together what they want to achieve as far as value and market position, and we have a clear strategy to get there,” said Mitchell. “It feels great and it’s very exciting to me because I really didn’t have anybody to help me avoid mistakes along the way. I had to learn the hard way, but hopefully they won’t.”

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