The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
What is the #1 mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue relationships with potential mentors or advisors?
They generalize what exactly they need help with. I see this when I’m asked, “Will you be my mentor?” We have so many relationships today that this type rarely exists. Instead, they should come prepared and say, “Here’s what I need right now. Here’s how you can help me get from point A to B or make a connection for me.”
- Dan Price, Gravity Payments
Usually, the mentors who you would like to have are busy making a substantial impact on the world. If this is the case, they may miss or forget to respond to your initial attempt to reach out and connect. This is why it is important to follow up with potential mentors more than once. Some will respond, and others will not, but it is important to try more than once.
- Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers
Chances are the person whom you would like to become your mentor has a lot going on already. You need to approach him with your interest, but don’t be overwhelming. A few reminders and follow-up emails will probably be necessary, but don’t scare him off.
- Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive
This is networking 101. In any relationship, there has to be a mutual benefit between both parties. Mentors and advisors — regardless of how successful they are — still have the urge to learn and grow themselves in some form or fashion. Time is a commodity that has the highest value — even more so to mentors and advisors. They have funds already, so their time is worth its weight in gold!
- Andrew Vest, Preferling
It helps immensely to have a bit of buzz, whether it be in the media or community, before you approach a high-value mentor or advisor. It is human nature to want to be involved with potential winners. Generating some buzz or other positive attention for your startup or yourself will help garner the attention of the right mentors and advisors right away.
- Danny Boice, Speek
I have had many conversations with entrepreneurs trying to start new companies, but very few follow up with a “thank you.” When I talk with other founders, I’ve found that this is a theme. Young entrepreneurs should realize that they are building relationships — not transactions — and take the time to show appreciation to those by sending a simple thank you email. It goes a long way!
- Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc
You never know when you’ll potentially meet your best mentor. But the surest thing in the world is that you will never meet him unless you share your ideas. Whenever I ask someone about what he is working on, and he replies, “I can’t really tell you,” I think to myself, “You just missed your opportunity for me to help you.”
- Kasper Hulthin, Podio
It’s important to have respect for a potential mentor or advisor, but it’s never wise to approach the relationship from a place of fandom. When you do that, you establish an unequal power dynamic, which ultimately muddies the relationship. You should always strive to be seen as a colleague — never a fan.
- Michael Parrish DuDell, Race + vine
I think a lot of young entrepreneurs think effective mentorship comes from someone who has experience in their same industry. I’ve found that a ton can be learned from people who have struggled and succeeded in any industry — if you take the time to listen. It’s less about the same experiences and more about the right experiences when it comes to finding a great mentor.
- Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture
I am often approached by people who would like advice on their business and suggestions on how to get clients. Although I love being able to support people in their ventures, it becomes difficult when the person is in the same industry as I am and would be competing for clients. Choose a mentor or advisor who is similar, but not so similar that it becomes a conflict of interest.
- Erin Blaskie, Next Dev Media
The biggest mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue mentors is not reaching high enough. As a young entrepreneur you need to decide who you want to emulate and reach out to them. It’s okay to get pushed back or pushed down. You will still land in a much higher place than if your expectations been set low to begin with.
- Justin Bailie, FR8nex.com
There are a lot of mistakes that young entrepreneurs make when it comes to mentorship, but the biggest one they make is not having the courage to ask the right people to mentor them. People love to share their knowledge, and you will be surprised by how often the answer is “yes.” One great mentor is worth five very good ones, so shoot for the stars.
- Emerson Spartz, Spartz
Find a happy medium between asking too many questions and not enough. It’s important to outline your goals and who in the industry is interested in connecting with you to help further your business.
- Amanda Barbara, Pubslush