1/ Focus on people who want to help
Engaging mentors requires strategy. Like you set a user acquisition strategy, you have to prepare your mentor acquisition strategy: What skills are you missing in your company? What are you looking for? Start by an auto-diagnosis and define how and why you need help. Engaging a mentor just because he runs a company you love is vanity. Be focused on people who 1/ want to help 2/ can really help.
2/ Open your ears and be ready to be challenged
The whole point of meeting mentors is to connect with people who will love to challenge your ideas. You need to be ready to open your ears and listen. If you think that you know everything about your business, stay at home.
Mentors are people who are hard with the facts, but kind with the founders. They need to tell founders their truth. Good mentors will speak raw, and you must not take it personally.
3/ Be strong and say “No”
If you’re not prepared or if you’re too much impressed, you will literally change 30 times your product/sales strategy/marketing plan within 2 weeks. Your job as a CEO is to keep a cool head. Do it for you, for your business and for your team. If every time you go back to your desk and say to your team “we should do that”, you will defocus your team and lose credibility.
4/ Anticipate sharply
Anticipating the goals of your session with your mentor will spare you a lot of time. The sharper you’ll be, the more relevant advice you’ll get.
When you meet a mentor, prepare your agenda: the more specific, the better. Choose 3 issues that you want to tackle, and send the Agenda to the mentor prior to the meeting.
Ex1:“I want to get 20% more leads from Adwords. Currently I have X keywords and I spend Y for results of Z. What did you do when you tried that solution….? “
Ex2: “I need to get introduced to X “
Ex3: “How do I respond in a sales negotiation when they tell me …? “
5/ Follow up
Just like any relationship, you need to keep the flame alive:
– Communicate your weekly updates (see below an example of mentors’ update).
– Send a follow up email after each meeting (with a sumup + the next steps).
– Get them interested. Never miss an opportunity to share your big progress.
6/ Map out your network
You can distinguish between three levels
1: Lead mentors
Build a team of up to 3 people with whom you’ll be in touch almost every week. Focus on people who really want to help.
2: Ad-hoc mentors
These people are extremely valuable because they will help you on specific topics. You basically get in touch with them once a month. Gathering a pool of these ad-hoc mentors is key for the success of your startup, because your team will always lack experience and lack skills.
3: Extended network
You won’t know them directly yet keep them on the radar because they have skills/background/network that could be very valuable for your company at one point.