Appointing mentors and advisers

What you need to consider when appointing mentors and advisers for your business in the time it takes to make a playlist.

Just like a playlist can enhance the experience of a road trip, taking on mentors and advisers can be beneficial for your journey as an entrepreneur.

But just like making sure the playlist creates the right vibe, we’ll talk you through what you need to know about choosing the right mentors and advisers for you, as well as how to get the most out of them.

This post will take about six minutes to read.

Good advice can take you places. That’s why as a budding entrepreneur, having mentors and advisers who can help guide your business is invaluable.

You might even find that taking on mentors and advisers is one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made.


Difference between mentors and advisers


The two words are often used interchangeably, but there is an important difference between mentors and advisers.

Advisers are involved in the strategic direction of the company. They have specific industry knowledge, offer you their consultative expertise, bring credibility to your business and increase your odds of success with potential investors.

It’s common to have a group of advisers in an advisory board, which is generally comprised of investors or other people with a vested interest in the company, or they can be paid consultants.

On the other hand, mentors tend to be people who are invested in your development as a person and business leader.

Mentors tend to be people who have accomplished goals you are pursuing yourself and can give you more holistic advice beyond your business objectives, such as trying to achieve work-life balance.

It’s common to have more informal connections with your mentors, rather than the formal, contracted ties you have with your advisers.


Benefits of mentors and advisers


Apart from receiving professional advice, there are many additional benefits of mentors and advisers. They include:

Perspective

Business mentors can help you look at problems from perspectives that you would not have thought of on your own. They can also give you strategies for what to do when facing specific business challenges.

Networking

As advisers and mentors are often at a later stage of their career than you are, they probably know more people than you do. They are often very willing to introduce you to contacts who can help you make your business more successful.

Support

Starting a business is difficult, but having a credible mentor and/or adviser who has been through what you’re going through can be a good source of support and encouragement. They’re also good people to vent to when you need an ear.

Improving skills

Mentors and advisers are invested in helping you hone your skills. Also, don’t forget that you’ll probably teach them a lot, too!


What should you look for in mentors and advisers?


When it comes to advisers, what you should be looking for depends on whether you’re putting together an advisory board or seeking individual advisers.

Find our seven tips for putting together a strategic advisory board here and ten tips for what to look for in an adviser here.

Looking for a mentor is a little more personal. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when seeking mentors:

1. What do you want to achieve?

Understanding the goals you want to achieve can help you think about who you know – or know of – that has achieved a similar goal in the past. They’d be able tell you about the challenges they faced on their way to achieving that goal, as well as what they did to overcome them.

2. What you want to work on?

Not all goals need to be focused around the performance of your business. In fact, some of them should be about growing and developing yourself as a leader, as well as working on other more personal goals.

Seek out a mentor who has the qualities that you’re trying to develop.

3. Who do you admire?

We tend to become like the people we spend the most time with. Surround yourself with mentors that you respect and you’ll probably find that you become more like them.


When is the right time to appoint mentors and advisers?


There’s no hard and fast rule about when to appoint mentors and advisers: it’s all about working out when it’s right for your business.

Advisers typically come into the picture if:

  • You establish your business structure as a trust,
  • You want to take on investment, especially from a VC firm, angel investor or accelerator program, or
  • You’re looking to scale your business.

When it comes to mentors, it’s never too early to reach out to people who can help you. Consider finding a few different mentors who can help you in different ways.


How to utilise mentors and advisors


Getting the most out of your mentors and advisers is about communicating regularly and having face-to-face catch-ups.

When it comes to advisers, ask about how they prefer to meet and communicate. You’ll find that some people like informal catch-ups, while others prefer more structured meetings.

If you’ve got an advisory board, consider meeting quarterly at a minimum. This may vary if you’ve got certain contractual obligations in place.

Mentors can be contacted as frequently or infrequently as you’d like. Again, to get the most out of your mentors, you’ll probably find that meeting frequently and setting goals to work on between meetings is a good way to work together.

When approaching mentors, it’s also important to gauge how much time they’re willing to give to you.

Top 3 takeaways

  • Advisers are people who give advice on growing your business, while mentors are more concerned with helping you grow.
  • Advisers and mentors can give you new perspectives on challenges, help you improve your skills, provide networking opportunities and give you support.
  • While advisers will generally come into the picture when you want to grow your business, consider seeking out mentors as soon as possible.