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Fluffy bunnies or swimming with sharks


Mentoring has been on my mind. Decide to look up what mentoring actually means. According to Wikipedia; Mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. Apparently it stems from ancient Greek and was inspired by the character of Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey.


I have some issues with mentoring. It might have to do with my own experiences with mentors, mentor schemes and business using mentors.

Most mentors I know of are unemployed consultants or retired managers of big organisations. Most wouldn’t know much about entrepreneurship or small business and as a result cannot add much value.

Which is one of reasons we created, so businesses can interact with other business and get help from people who have been there and bought the T-shirt. We have plenty examples of Smallbusinesscan members (join, it is free) helping with web site development, sales, marketing, strategy, etc.


There also appears to be a huge mismatch between the business that really need resolved and the capabilities of assigned mentor. As a result a huge amount of time is wasted. What can an ex-banker tell you about social media? How can a retired CFO help you with you sales?

Would you prefer a sales mentor that talks about it or somebody that actually sells for you? Do you want somebody to talk about finance or do you want somebody that can pitch to banks and investors with you? Do you prefer a mentor or a team member?

Non commital

Which brings me to my biggest issue with mentoring is the non-committal nature. It is too soft, too fluffy and with no accountability for the results. My preference is for an advisory board to which a CEO, founder or entrepreneurs reports into on a regular basis. And the board filled people that create the creative tension and grit (blood on the board room wall) necessary to move a business forward. Swimming with the sharks.

If you decide to go for a mentor make sure you know who and what you are looking for. Have a problem definition and be clear on the expectations. Write a job spec. Be prepared to say “no” to the mentors that are on offer. Be also prepared to fire the mentor once they have outlasted their usefulness.

Get a shark

What I am saying is that mentors could be useful if they are the right ones, can add real value. The wrong mentor will waste your time. Get a shark, not a bunny.

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One Response to Fluffy bunnies or swimming with sharks

  1. brian October 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Ron, I agree with your comments. Mentoring, its akin to throwing out a fishing net, to see if you caught salmon, red herring, or a shark. I do some mentoring, but I stick to innovation and areas that I am experienced in, marketing – nope, finance – not a chance.
    There needs to be a mechanism by which mentors can take pain as well as gain, I don’t believe that all a mentor has to forgo is either not being paid or loss of a recommendation, mentoring is a collaborative effort and should be treated similarly.
    We all need advice, even those in a mentoring capacity themselves, advice is not always that which is purely financial / bottom line, and having the advantage of an experienced person (temporarily) is something that should be contemplated.

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