Mentoring, as I previously wrote, can give you an ‘unfair’ advantage if you are looking to set up your own business and want to avoid certain mistakes that can easily be prevented. Finding a good mentor can be time-consuming and at times daunting experience. But it can also be hard to find the right mentee.
Successful entrepreneur, Steven Jupp shares his experience as a mentor and provides an insight into how exactly the mentor-mentee relationship can go wrong:
I took the step into a new experience for me and went looking for my first company to mentor. I was very quickly swamped with requests, some good, some not so good and some just plain ugly. A young lady with an amazing fitness sector skillset caught my eye, highly experienced, expert ex Olympic medalist. She wanted to setup a fitness company but had no real idea of the target, nor the realisation of an already saturated market, steered by the corporates including Virgin and Fitness First (The UK anyway). This is where I learned my first trial. Analyse the person to make sure they are really serious and not acting on a whim, plus are ready for a great deal of hard work!
1st meeting – the nice one!
I love the initial energy many people emit when they are looking at a new beginning. They stare starry eyed, thinking that starting a business is simply incorporation and then the money flows. I attempted the usual questions, grasping her business model in one hand and guiding her with the other through my hastily compiled information library. She smiled, agreed to everything, thought I was amazing and prepared herself for battle. I ascertained she was more for accolade than monetary value, so went back to my man cave for a long session of competitive, charitable and USP research. Within a week, I had an action plan for utilising CSR of corporates, needs of the schools in the UK for a new fitness and team building activity and the requirements of my candidate to reach the highs of MBE. Financials were calculated, contribution analysis computed and USP nailed – Quite chuffed with myself, I arranged for the next meeting.
2nd meeting – action plan
We met at a coffee shop, which is not the best for me – too much noise and Nero Americano’s make me shake with the caffeine content. Still, I pursued and albeit loud, managed to convey the entire plan of attack to her. She sat nodding with a grin like a Cheshire cat, excited was the understatement. I set her tasks which she duly agreed to and set up a meeting for the following week. She had my mobile phone number, email, and landline, so I was available for the highly energetic, soon to be, business lady of the year!
The brick wall!
Guidance and continuous nurturing is key to mentoring, no matter the subject. Starting a business for the first time (and probably the sixth time as far as I can remember) is extremely daunting. Solicitors, Accountants, government, banks, business models; the list goes on. I expect the inexperienced to hit a wall of terror and confusion within a week or two and my candidate was spot on! Within five days, I had at least fifteen conversations, two more meetings and 1/2 hour of convincing her father (she was in the late twenties) that I had no ulterior motive, did not want to sell her anything and probably had many more years experience of business than his friend who also doubled as his small business accountant. He insisted that his friend for a nominal fee incorporated the business, analysed the business model (which he never actually made one comment on) and operated as the bookkeeper, accountant, and secretary for the business. I suggested he wait as we were likely going to register as a charity, but the following and the business was incorporated, along with a nice bill from his friend. She had also thrown me a curve ball too, now wanting my financial investment as she didn’t want her cosy lifestyle to change.
My latest project has taken me back to the CEO role, but in the exciting and fast paced hedge fund sector. I am currently mentoring and CEO of Avem Capital, based in London UK. The company has three funds within its portfolio, all aimed at the sophisticated and professional investors.
Follow Steven Jupp on Linkedin.