Mentoring: A two-way respect

Coping when under extreme pressure is part of being an entrepreneur. You simply can’t afford to damage relationships.


I do some pro bono work for a local incubator. Every month we get together to help budding entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running. It’s lots of fun and we all get a great buzz out of this work. The entrepreneurs are enthusiastic and I get lots of satisfaction working with these early stage companies.


However, one CEO really blew it.

I was one of three on his mentoring panel. After the first two meetings it was obvious that he was simply not taking any action on suggestions agreed to at the mentor meetings. That, in itself, is not the problem. Things change and that is part of the decision making process.


The problem was that this CEO had no real reason why he hadn’t acted on the agreed suggestions. He was not able to put up credible reasons why he was not working through the issues.


The second problem that I had with this CEO is that he didn’t understand the value of networks. I offered to talk to a colleague who has very valuable contacts in this CEO’s market. The CEO took a few weeks to get information to me and when he did it was too complicated and too lengthy to be of much use. By this time the opportunity had passed.


Now, like most startup CEOs, he was starving. Well not quite, but the cash flow problems were extreme. And that has a big impact on how people react in pressure situations. I know how hard that can be. It can certainly muddle the brain.


But coping when under extreme pressure is part of being an entrepreneur. You simply can’t afford to damage relationships. Australia is a small place and you will be surprised where people pop up in the future. Learning to manage these relationships is one of the most important jobs that you have to take care of.


If you are going to engage with mentors and business advisers, then make sure that you look after them. Respect the time that they are giving you and respect their advice. That doesn’t mean that you need to do everything they suggest. But, you need to explain why you decided against certain suggestions.


Some mentor tips…

Be polite. Thank mentors for their time. Give them a little surprise (I like a bottle of red) from time to time – particularly if you’re getting free advice.


Keep them updated on progress. See if you can help them in any way. In other words, look for ways to thank people who help you. They’ll love you for it and they’ll remember you.


It’s the right thing to do and it’s an investment in the future.


By the way, SmartCompany sent me a very nice bottle of wine for Christmas and I really appreciated that. They understand relationships.


There is no doubt that pressures add up when you’re in startup mode. Stay calm, look after all your people. If you get really frustrated then stick your head in a cupboard and yell expletives until you feel better.


But, whatever you do, when in public be polite and respectful. Never underestimate the value of good manners. They’ll help you build strong and lasting relationships.


Till next week…



Gail Geronimos, is the founder of Achaeus, which helps entrepreneurs develop their businesses and she has just started a new site with tools and tips about how to develop killer presentations to raise capital.

To read more Gail Geronimos blogs, click here.



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