There are many definitions thrown around in the entrepreneurial world – and everyone uses them differently. Tune in to learn more about how Tech Ranch® defines a mentor (4 types!), an advisor (more formal) and an entrepreneur-in-residence.
|Today we’re actually following up on series that we’re calling Defining Entrepreneurship. We’re going to do a series of these video blog-casts, to share some insight about specific areas. Today we’ll discuss the distinctions between mentorship, advising, and then what we call an entrepreneur-in-residence. A lot of times this idea of mentorship is actually tossed around and not all mentors are equal. There’s this idea called the e-myth. Entrepreneurs have never built a business alone. They have a team and then they have a group of people that support them, different insight and advising happens. In each one of these types – the mentors, advisers, and entrepreneur-in-residence – an entrepreneur can get support throughout that process. What we want to look at, though, is the distinctions, so that you’re building a set of mentor relationships, you’re not calling this one like that one like this, because they will actually look quite different.
Let’s start with mentor. We actually have mentors around the Tech Ranch®, and initially, because I was so concerned about the whole setup of the different types, we didn’t just publish a bunch of names on our website. I actually want to make sure we’re building the right kind of relationships. Tech Ranch® is built around a martial arts metaphor. I studied martial arts for many years, and a lot of times you learn from the other people that you’re interacting with. And the mentors can be like that with regards to entrepreneurs. We don’t necessarily define it differently than the whole rest of the world, but I actually have spent a little bit more time on defining different types. And we’ll go through that.
The question is: what situations would make this helpful? If you’re ever up against the wall, and also the thing to kind of keep yourself accountable, know one of the things you should be doing is actually having these different types of people around you. And does it make sense to work with a mentor in any particular type of business? Yeah, in actually all different types of business. There’s not one type.
There are four different types of mentors. You’re saying, “Hey, wait, you’re going to talk to me about mentors, advisers, and entrepreneur residents.” I actually want to even talk about mentors and what you should be looking for. The four different types that I see:
Advisers – I reserve that term for someone you’re meeting with on a weekly basis. And the whole idea is that it’s more formalized. Mentors you might meet in a casual, random setting, whereas advisers there’s some type of business relationship. You might be giving them a small chunk of your company, say a half a percent of the equity. You’re asking for their advice and you’re listening to their advice.
Typically, if the relationship is more formalized, you could ask them to serve on your Board of Advisors to help fill gaps in specific areas. What is it that you might ask them to do that you might not ask a general mentor? In my case, because finance is not one of my strengths, I’ve had a financial adviser who was responsible for really paying attention to that part of the business. How is my business being financed, not just in preparing it or in the investment conversation, but the overall finance and accounting of the organization?
It can make sense to have an advisory “board” at almost any stage of the company or startup. It’s not necessarily something you wait for. It could be, at the earliest stage, you build out a Board of Advisers of three to four qualified individuals in different areas to have some real meat on the bones of the startup. That’s a great way to get things going and to engage a few people who are dedicated to making you successful.
The third type of relationship is the entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR). What an entrepreneur in residence is – here at Tech Ranch® – is an individual that participates in our Venture Builder program. The relationship lasts six to eight months and one fourth of the battle-scarred executive’s time is being part of the startup team. An EIR is someone who has got a lot of scar tissue and can offer to the team ten or more hours a week of heavy involvement.
The idea here is to work side by side with the entrepreneurs. Maybe the entrepreneurial team is really young, and they need to bring in someone who has been there, done that. Many times these EIRs will want to get involved in your venture because they are getting a little bit older but are not interested in being the first guy driving the venture. We find that a lot of times the love of the startup process is so strong that maybe the EIR is done working for financial reasons, but want to get involved in just helping out a series of entrepreneurs.
So, in just reviewing:
Where do you find them?
There’s all sorts of different ways of finding mentors. I found that the most successful thing for me is to consciously target a handful of people, reach out to them and go from there. You should have a sense of what you’re asking of the mentor or adviser or EIR and you should establish that up front.
Too many times, I get emails from different people who say, “Hey, Kevin, can I just get together with you and pick your brain?” or “Hey Kevin, let’s meet up” and the difficulty with that many times is that I have no idea even if I feel like I’m qualified to meet with a person and they are asking me to make a commitment of time to them even before I understand what they need. The best ways that an entrepreneur can actually connect with a mentor adviser or EIR is to say up front, “Hey, this is who I am, this is what I’m up to,” in a very succinct way, “and this is the set of requests I think we could operate around. Are you interested in having a conversation?” Do that on the front end. It is much more respectful if you truly are interested in building a relationship .