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Heartbleed – Another Reason your Startup Needs a Tech Founder

heartbleedThis week presented the web with one of the largest security breaches to date. A bug in software that secures the connections between our services and our users exposed sensitive data. Heartbleed and OpenSSL were written about extensively this week. Let us focus on the your startup. You must have a technical founder.

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Communicate to Maximize your Mentorship

The best thing you can do for your mentorship time is to communicate well. There are three key ways that this communication takes place that will help you to maximize your time together.

Set the Agenda beforehand

Maximize Time With Mentors by setting agenda before handAs entrepreneurs we have a reputation for our ability to work on the fly. Do not do this with your mentors – you’ll waste their time and your own. A few days before you are scheduled to meet up set aside time to reflect on your last meeting, what you have been doing since then, and develop a short list of points for discussion. After looking over your list make sure to email it off to your mentors along with any relevant information. Make sure to let them know you’re open to feedback, but that these are some points you’d like to go over.

Recently we’ve been developing a few strategic partnerships. I wanted my mentors to look over the contract to see if we are missing anything obvious. By sending it along a few days before hand they had a chance to skim through it in between things, and preserved our time together for conversations instead of 10 minutes reading a legal document.

Make it Actionable and Measurable before you stand up

Develop Actionable Steps From your talk with your MentorsYou came seeking advice. Before you get up from the table, articulate the actions and goals that you’ve developed out of your conversation. This gives you one last chance to ensure you all heard the same things, and to affirm the direction you are heading in till your next meet up. I take notes as we discuss things so I can reference them at this point.

I also like to email a brief follow-up on the meeting including the action points to my mentors when I get back to my desk. Sometimes it might take a bit of research on your part to nail down an exact set of numbers, but send this along. It communicates how much you value the time you have with them.

Keep the Communication Going

When it makes sense, send a quick email letting them know how things are going. Don’t say that you are too busy for this. They are busier than you are and choose to make time for you. If you said you were going to contact 8 people, let them know after you contact the last one, and briefly explain how it went. Maybe you could even bring up a point or two for the next time you meet up based on your success/failure to reach the goal. This communication loop can be repeated between every time you meet up with them.

 

Any other advice on how to communicate well with mentors?

Photo Credit: colinlogan and b_d_solis

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Finding Mentors Worth your Time

Find a Mentor through NetworkingNot all mentors are created equal. As you move forward you’ll find a lot of people with opinions for how you should be using your time and focus. All opinions are not created equal. They want you to succeed, but this doesn’t transform them into good ideas. Those worth listening to are often extremely busy and difficult to connect with. You must be selective with who you allow to speak into each area of your life.

You need to understand why you’re looking for mentors. I have mentors for my ministry work, business work, and personal life. I would never expect my ministry mentors to be able to speak to my business, or those I lean on for character development to help me understand how trinitarianism ought to impact our missional praxis. /MinistryGeek

The keys to find mentors are networking and awareness

Finding a MentorAlways be looking for ways to connect with people who are 5 years ahead of you. I was fortunate to have friends who were executives in software companies who mentored me early on, and thanks to their guidance I was in a position to get connected with the MESA Group (Minnesota Emerging Software Advisory) .  Don’t be afraid to pay for the opportunity to get mentored if the person/people you get to interact with are worth it. We do pay for me to be a part of MESA.

The final key to any mentorship is to make sure you start with developed goals you can concisely articulate. A successful businessperson may not have experience where you need it, and experience is not all that transferable. My business mentors work in other software as service businesses and their annual revenue is where I see ours reaching. Most importantly their business expertise and experience are in the areas we need them most – finances and marketing.

Everything has its Season

Don’t hold onto a mentor longer then you need to. Understand up front roughly how long to expect this mentorship to last, and what the goals are. Measure yourself along the way. If you aren’t going to make the goals, or if your needs turn out to be quite different feel the freedom to part ways. The most frustrating experience I’ve have when mentoring others is their lack of progress or growth. Understanding that mentorship is a season allows both sides of the relationship to decide when the next season is starting. Celebrate what happened, and get excited about what is to come next.

Photo Credit: JodiWomack and MDGovpics

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The Differences Great Mentors Make

Since you’re reading about mentors it tells me that – at a minimum – you believe it is valuable. I hope that these encouragements will galvanize your passion for life long mentorship. These are the three reasons why I pursue and value mentorship.

Avoiding Pitfalls

Mentors Provide Direction

Your mentors live outside the noise and chaos of your business and can provide guidance through or around problems. The time and money I have saved because of these insights is immeasurable.The most costly mistakes I have made running my businesses come from misusing my time and focus. When I’m in the day-to-day forest of work it becomes easy to lose sight of the big picture, or to head directly into problems I cannot see (either because of experience, or distraction).

Personal Example: I worked for a software company before starting my own and how I originally envisioned my business growing was very similar. One of my mentors at the time was a CFO who taught me how critical focusing on your core competency was. This single idea changed how I understood my business, and how I spent my time.

Speeding up Success

One of the most difficult roles in a startup is choosing between several good ideas. Within the sea of good ideas the experience and wisdom of your mentors can filter out the gems worth pursuing most. They will be able to speak the hard realities to you about your precious and prefect business… so listen to them!

Mentors Speed Up SuccessTheir experience, wisdom, and insights are the reason you meet with them. Have a spirited discussion with their suggestions. Remember that you know your business better than they do – so bring up relevant experience when it helps flesh out the picture. The goal is to help your company grow, not to replicate their experience.

Personal Example: Currently we are in a major sales push. Our software has matured well, and we are continuing to refine it, but the major blocks are in place. By sharing our previous experience with cold calling (over 1500 prospects), and sharing our experience with who our decision makers are, we quickly shifted our discussion in a more helpful direction.

Vision and Focus

Having regular contact with your mentors helps to remind you of the goals you’ve set. That vision and focus they help you develop will hone you in to be more effective with your time, and to reach your goals faster.

Photo Credit: Max Braun and Luciano Meirelles