Meet Your Mentor

By Bill Warner, EntreDot Executive Director and Executive Mentor

Mentors Connect the Dots for Entrepreneurs

For the majority of the companies that fail, the missing ingredient that could have ensured their success is basic business and operational “know-how.” This is the void that a mentor tries to fill. A mentor provides business guidance to entrepreneurs and helps them make the right decisions as they start and operate new companies. I stress that the entrepreneur makes the decisions and owns them, not the mentor. The role of the mentor is to:

  • Provide impartial advice and guidance,
  • Share business experiences,
  • Ask probing questions to help the entrepreneur be sure they have thought things through,
  • Provide referrals to other business experts as needed and
  • Give feedback on strategies and plans, sharing additional ideas and suggestions.

Mentors increase entrepreneurs’ chances of success by sharing needed business wisdom that will help them avoid terrible mistakes. Good mentors are seasoned business executives who establish long-term mentoring relationships and are available whenever needed. Their mentoring includes:

  • Advising entrepreneurs on the viability of their business ideas, helping them to get on the right track from the beginning,
  • Identifying research sources to understand their market opportunities, creating the in-depth understanding of their customers and other industry players that are needed,
  • Questioning their business model and business strategy so they know how they are going to make money and/or achieve their social purpose,
  • Identifying marketing, sales, prototyping and financing needs to make sure the company has the right infrastructure to accomplish their marketing and sales goals,
  • Helping establish appropriate business infrastructure so that the company has the necessary legal, governance and regulatory infrastructure in place,
  • Advising them on business operations so that the right support is in place for marketing, sales and customer support,
  • Dealing with marketing and sales challenges so that the hundreds of issues that always come up are properly dealt with,
  • Identifying the needs for protecting intellectual property so that the company is not exposed to losing their differentiation and barriers to entry,
  • Providing management guidance for their business decisions to make sure they are both thoughtful and effective and
  • Referring entrepreneurs to business resources that will help them in both operations as well as reaching out to new customers and partnerships.


Meet Your Mentor

 If there is any doubt in your mind, don’t hesitate. If you are a new entrepreneur, get a mentor. Even if you are not so new to entrepreneurship, get a mentor anyway. In either case, the mentor provides the impartial set of eyes you need to hold you accountable for meeting your own objectives.

The key to selecting the mentor is their impartiality. They have no horse in your race. So, chances are you don’t know your next mentor right now, but one is out there that can help you. Find one.

About the Author

Bill Warner is co-founder and Executive Director of EntreDot, a non-profit organization that helps entrepreneurs start new businesses. He is also a Fund Executive of the Inception Micro Angel Fund (IMAF-RTP), an angel investor organization and Managing Director of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm.