Mentoring entrepreneurs through sleight of hand

In the second of three columns on advising entrepreneurs, George Coelho examines how advice givers should do their best to provide every conceivable advantage.

I am often asked what advice I would give young entrepreneurs, as a mentor and what kinds of networks could possibly help them. I thought about what I do to help entrepreneurs, the kinds of advice I give them and then distilled this into actual advice for their potential mentors.

In my first examination of the issue I looked at the benefits of positive and negative feedback. This time round i’ll be analysing the more delicate forms of mentoring.

Do some company building yourself

Given all the things entrepreneurs have to think about in starting and growing the business, give them some extra help. Use your contacts, knowledge and gravitas to help get them over the top in building a team, strategy, finance… the whole enchilada.

Let them cheat the standard process a little with your help. I frequently make referrals to people, resources and strategic contacts that many VCs consider part of their value-add, to be delivered sparingly after investment. I just value-add those to the entrepreneurs I favour, but haven’t invested in.

Give actual detailed advice

A couple years ago a couple brainy guys approached me for help in setting up their business. I quickly figured out who their high profile investor candidate was, even without them telling me. Then I gave them advice on their pitch and eventually the negotiations.

When it came down to actual deal points including the valuation and what to ask for, I gave them specific things to say and told them exactly how the investor would react, since investors are so predictable. They got their deal done and were off to the races.

If you have expertise, do use it. I am sure the investor would not have been pleased knowing I was on the other side, but it was all fair and a bit of fun for me too.  They both got a fair deal. Don’t be afraid to give real advice down to the details.

Mentor those where the gains are not immediate

I often mentor young entrepreneurs and pre-entrepreneurs where the gains are not immediate. Whether it is out of social responsibility or what, I don’t know, but I derive a lot of pleasure from helping people on the right path, I know my mentors certainly helped me.

Some of the people I have mentored have been still at university, some in their first job and others starting or leaving their companies. Certainly there is no pre-requisite that you have to be a financial investor to help them, in fact, if I help them, I am still an investor with my time, where the income is psychic.

Maybe that’s the best kind. I can count people I have mentored since they finished graduate school long ago. And they still speak to me, although now, I think they are my mentors.

Young entrepreneurs would be surprised how captains of industry are frequently able to spare some time to mentor them. And these captains get something back.

Part III – Advising entrepreneurs by extending the advice chain

Related Topics

Business mentoring