Finding the right mentor is a little bit like finding the right person to date: you need to have things in common, you need shared values, and you both need to know your mutual expectations of each other.
In the context of startups, mentors can be invaluable. Generally, they give you constructive feedback and advice, share their knowledge and experience, guide you around common pitfalls, and connect you into the wider entrepreneurial network. They can also help keep you focused and encourage you when the going gets tough—as it inevitably will at some point.
Rod Young—whose Woodridge-based company Masters & Young developed and now manufacturers a high-tech military router for Boeing—says a mentor is not simply someone who has done a lot, but someone who is also unafraid to be brutally honest when required.
Rod says the best way to make sure you connect with the right mentor is to be able to first articulate your project or idea.
“Once you have something in writing, you can find a mentor whose skills, experience and interests will be a good match.”
That means being able to answer key questions like:
- Why does the world need your product?
- Who is your market?
- How many can you sell?
- How much will you sell your product for?
- How much do you need it made for so you can turn a profit?
For Rod, mentoring often involves giving startups a reality check to ensure their thinking is targeted and the project goals are real.
In August, Rod was one of four industry representatives working with groups of QUT electrical, mechanical and aerospace students. “I provided insights into working in the real world and gaining employment in high tech companies.”
He’s currently helping two university students with their research projects. “These women are engineers doing amazing work. They’re working on complex issues and I’m helping them to keep their projects on track and work through the tough stuff.”
Rod also mentors at a medical research weekends, where engineers, students, and entrepreneurs come together to solve problems. “I work with them to keep the technology achievable. I’m a sounding board for truth and real outcomes.”
It’s good to remember that your mentor won’t know everything about all things, but they will have invaluable experience and advice, which is why it’s important to find the right one for you.
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