Advising entrepreneurs by extending the advice chain

In his third and final column on mentoring business builders, George Coelho explains how gaining access to one advisor can open the door to many more.

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. 

Mentoring networks

The best mentors are those who have some kind of connection to the job at hand or who are just good multi-industry types – who have lots of experience to bring to bear, even if not necessarily in the field in question.

Obviously if you’re looking to start a restaurant chain or creating advanced medical solutions, some expertise is required to really be of help. In these cases I usually refer people to others who have the requisite expertise and often go along for the first meeting myself.

There is always something to learn and I enjoy hearing about insights on businesses by experts who have built companies in everything from software to hamburger buns.

I mentored a dress designer once. I don’t know much about dress design but I do know something about the industry and I was able to put her in touch with people who were more niche. The result was that she got the right lawyer and the funding she wanted. Now she is famous.

There are many mentoring networks. I am a Charter member (and a former co-president) of TiE UK, the UK Chapter of a famous organization started in Silicon Valley years ago. It provides mentoring and connections for those mainly from the Indian Sub-Continent region who were starting and building companies, at that time.

Today TiE is not just about Indus, it celebrates and welcomes all entrepreneurs and is an entirely volunteer organization around the world, which has the sole purpose of mentoring.

While I am a TiE advocate, there are many mentoring organizations. I think that the best way to find a mentor is to imagine the person you would like to meet and then go about trying to meet them. People are flattered to be asked for their advice. And if money is kept out of the picture the advice might be very pure indeed.

Hire the young

Luke Johnson, the well-know entrepreneur and investor wrote an excellent article two months ago about backing young people for all the reasons we know. It is a very good read. 

In fact there is only one area where I disagreed with him. He essentially said that The Rolling Stones were past it and should hang it up. Well The Stones still continue to inspire and mentor young musicians, just like they were inspired by older African-American jazz and blues players when they were younger and working up their act in Richmond in the Sixties.

That’s the way music works. So I don’t think they should hang it up at all. Their work is not finished. Their energy and longevity are an inspiration to young musicians, who are ultimately entrepreneurs. But I do agree with him that Paint It Black is an absolute tour-de-force as a number. My Mum especially liked that single – and she was a great mentor to me and many others.

Read George Coelho’s two previous installments on mentoring entrepreneurs:

How to Mentor Entrepreneurs by giving useful feedback

Mentoring Entrepreneurs through sleight of hand.

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