Along with the nice office space and the hundreds of free post-it notes, one of the most valuable resources NMotion offers our founders is the opportunity to work with great mentors from the Lincoln startup community and beyond.
But what is the value of mentoring? After all, the founders in our 2017 cohort are smart, capable people, some of whom have been running their own businesses for years now. It’s a question a lot of startup founders find themselves asking – “I already have my million-dollar idea. What do I need a mentor for?”
We got in touch with some of the mentors who’ve helped this year’s group of founders and asked them a few variations on a simple question: why do you mentor at NMotion? Their answers revealed the importance of having mentors not just in the fast-paced world of startups, but in any business:
Method Mark’s Micah Yost leads a workshop on Design Thinking
Mentors Are Critical
“The most successful startups,” says Keith Fix, “surround themselves with mentors and advisors who could help navigate the often turbulent journey that is being a part of a startup.” As the President of Perfecta Media and CEO of RetailAware, Fix knows a thing or two about how to run a successful startup.
Many of our mentors echoed this idea that, especially in today’s highly competitive market, having a good mentor isn’t just helpful – it’s absolutely essential to success. Why? As Dominic Pynes, Division President of Lincoln Plastics, put it: “Mentoring is critical to speed up the process so that a startup doesn’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ for everything. There are aspects of business that are common and also specific skill sets that particular mentors provide to cut the learning curve significantly.” In the business world – our world – things move fast, and first-time founders can’t get afford to get bogged down in the details. That’s why a lot of our workshops focus on processes, like Lean startup methodology and Agile.
Pynes adds, “Also, mentors can bring valuable connections they have built over the years, which again, helps speed up the process.”
Aviture’s Kathy Anderson helps the founders master Agile development.
Every Great Mentor Had A Great Mentor
Many of the people we spoke to said that they choose to teach because they’re “passing on” the attention and help given to them by mentors at various stages in their career. “I’ve only had a handful of true mentors in my life,” says Method Mark founder Micah Yost, “and those relationships have literally been invaluable. They’ve taught me leadership, time management, and key aspects to my faith in Jesus.”
Todd Bohling, Cloud Operations Manager for Zillow, shared this story with us: “Early on I did not formally engage with a mentor. Either through naivety or stubbornness, I waded through the mire with peers…I’ve since surrounded myself with those that do and achieve and it has been transformative.” Speaking on those who may be in a similar situation, he says, “I think the mentor in any capacity of work, life or spirit is a blindspot for many and should be embraced as a growth opportunity.”
Pynes explains how having excellent mentors helped him become a better mentor in turn: “I also had mentors who treated me like a competent professional…and just expected me to do my part. They set high expectations and treated me like a colleague. I use these same techniques today when coaching others.” He even learned the value of being a mentor from a mentor: “From others, I learned that you ‘learn best what you teach’ so we get better ourselves by thinking how to teach/coach someone else.”
Mentoring Is Fun!
How do you get some of the best minds in the business to give you some advice on getting your business off the ground? Well, a lot of the time, you can just ask, because our mentors love what they do. “What gets me out of bed in the morning is helping other people build their ideas,” Yost tells us. “That’s ultimately what drives me.” He adds: “Mentoring at NMotion gives me a real opportunity to do what I love.”
Many of us become enamored with entrepreneurship because we love working with people who are passionate about what they do. Our mentors are no different: “I really enjoy the energy the teams bring to the program,” Pynes says, “and I also enjoy seeing people stretching themselves in pursuit of entrepreneurial activities.”
So Why Do We Mentor?
We mentor because it’s important. We mentor to give back to the community – whether here in Lincoln or abroad – that supported us when we were still finding our way. And most importantly – we mentor simply because it’s what we love doing, and we want to work with passionate people and help them achieve their goals.
It’s not just our founders who get something out of the mentorship program. If anything, we learn just as much as them.