7 Essential Startup Mentors


A startup is exciting, it’s fun and it’s a journey. At the same time, a startup is also challenging and daunting. If you’re on your own for the ride, it can be a pretty lonely place. Having key people in key places at key times is essential for success. Below, I offer the 7 types of mentors every person running a startup should have at their disposal:

The Inspiration ~ This person is the driving force behind the vision; the guiding light to why you believe in what you do. Sometimes the person at the helm, this mentor is someone you want to emulate and someone you aim to impress. This person also represents a smaller version of every other type of mentor (listed below), which in combination makes for quite an impressive individual. For a startup, sometimes, this person is someone you can’t quite reach (a Richard Branson or a Steve Jobs) because you are likely your own boss. If you’re lucky, like I am, this person founded the company, handed over the reigns and is still there now as your sounding board whenever you need them.

The Ying to your Yang ~ An essential type of mentor, these individuals have the ability to play their strengths to your weaknesses. If you’re strong in operations but struggle with financials, this individual is the one you go to for help before booking an appointment with the bank. Learn your weak points and seek out experts in those fields.

The Devil’s Advocate ~ I want to caution that in this case, I’m not referring to someone who always says black when you say white. There’s someone out there with boatloads of experience that understands your business. They’ve navigated the waters and they’ve likely lived everything you’re about to embark on. While they won’t argue with your ideas and philosophies, they will bring up points demonstrating why you may want to reconsider every now and again. This is one of the most important mentors. While not always easy to hear, this person will make you question your direction from time to time. Your ability to handle constructive criticism and pivot fast is essential for success and this individual will test that, to the moon and back!

The Cheerleader ~ This person is Mr. or Mrs. Positivity. They wear rose colored glasses and while that may seem impractical for a mentor, it’s crucial for your survival. This might be a best friend, a spouse or a parent. It’s someone who believes in you and your success with every fiber of their being. This is who you go to when you’re feeling beat up and down. When you can’t even imagine waking up the next day, this person will give you the boost, the ‘za-za-zoo’ that you need to push through.

The Compass ~ This mentor is the best guide. They know your sector, they’ve worked the circuit and they know what matters to your prospects. If you’ve got a great ‘compass mentor’, they aren’t shy to share tips and tricks of the trade with you. They’ll send you reminders on things you can do to amp up your customer potential.

The Rolodex ~ This mentor is an expert connector. In your sector or in your vertical, this individual has ‘been there and done that’ and has, in the process, built a pretty impressive contact list. Impress this individual, keep them on your team and keep them in the loop as to what it is you’re doing. Don’t be shy to ask for introductions and make the most of every handshake completed due to this individual. If this person trusts you and believes in your product or service, they can really have an impact on your bottom line!

The Pusher ~ Just when you think you’ve hit the ceiling, this individual will push you to inch your way up just that little bit more. This person understands what you’re capable of and will nudge you at the right time when they feel your complacency or a lack of drive.


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