By Jerry Frantz
Relationships are everything. You’re only as good as your network. It’s not what you know — it’s who you know. What do these sayings have in common? They all describe the networking-focused nature of the business world, where your connections and contacts are stepping stones that can link you to success.
For entrepreneurs — especially those launching a new company — creating a robust network can make a difference, in particular where rapid growth is the goal. An entrepreneur might meet a subject matter expert who can share valuable market intelligence (or, better yet, become a paying customer).
Other connections may lead to individuals to champion your company to investors or strategic partners, or those who can introduce you to the right talent to build a winning team. Still others might serve as a constructive sounding board as entrepreneurs work through challenges.
Assistance is available
JumpStart’s Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program channels the experience and expertise of seasoned Greater Cleveland business leaders to accelerate the progress of promising entrepreneurial businesses toward funding, revenue and (eventually) job creation.
These leaders come from diverse industries and hold diverse titles; mentors include CEOs of medical and software startups, co-founders of energy and advanced manufacturing companies, investors, lawyers, financial planners, sales and digital marketing executives and CTOs.
All young companies need a wide range of specialized support as their business continue to evolve — and who better to dole out this guidance than experts who have already gone through the company-growth process and came out the other side on top?
Why be a mentor?
While it’s clear why entrepreneurs benefit from mentoring, what are the mentors getting from the program? Mentoring is an opportunity:
- To give back to the community. Impartial mentors have no skin in the game other than wanting to see the entrepreneurs be successful. And when entrepreneurs are successful, the region also benefits.
- To leverage various skills and know-how. Many executives are take-charge by nature. But one of the qualities of an ideal mentor includes the ability to be a good coach and listener, which is a powerful and effective way of approaching leadership — one that has its own rewards.
- To enjoy making tangible, meaningful impact. Because they work so closely with companies, mentors see first-hand the results of their guidance — whether it’s seeing how help refining a pitch leads to attracting capital or how a personal introduction leads to a first customer. Seeing efforts make a difference is a rewarding experience.
But no matter how advisers engage with a company — whether through a structured mentoring program, a formal board position or as an independent adviser — nurturing this relationship requires commitment, focus and openness. It goes both ways; to get the most value out of an adviser, entrepreneurs need to be dedicated, coachable and committed to the process. In the end, relationships are everything — and the most effective ones have that perfect balance of give and take.