Mentoring is a universally valued yet often under-utilised aspect of business – much to the detriment of many businesses. Incredibly, 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.
We wanted to dive a little deeper into the reasons behind why successful business owners and founders choose to mentor long after they need the experience. We wanted to answer the question that is often posed to us: What’s in it for the mentor?
So we set about interviewing 18 mentors from Startmate, one of Australia’s leading and most successful accelerator programs. One of Startmate’s strongest weapons is its arsenal of great mentors; mentors from hugely successful Australian startups and companies that provide each new startup cohort with bit of cash and a bucketload of experience and advice.
What did they say was the trigger behind becoming a mentor?
69% of interviewees said their trigger was an internal one, and that their main motivation for becoming a mentor was to give back or pay-it-forward. These people cited their previous experience of being mentored as an inspiration to get involved – while many were looking to help others avoid the costly mistakes they themselves had made.
Other respondents voiced less altruistic motives including access to the mentor network, while 18% simply did it because someone asked (all the more reason to ask, people).
What in it for you? We asked..
50% of the mentors said that simply enjoying the mentoring experience was their ‘what’s in it for me’. These mentors get a kick out of giving back and seeing their advice and suggestions helping other people move forward.
While 43% of respondents have continued to find that mentoring helps them learn, grow, garner new insights, and stay sharp; a number which highlights that even individuals well and truly on their way along the success path can gain a lot from opening themselves up to new and perhaps less formal channels of learning.
Others have found that mentoring provides them with valuable real-life case studies and a consistent flow of great new founders and valuable connections.
And what were a few of the most rewarding experiences that these mentors have had over the years?
Most centred on seeing founders and their companies grow, prosper and tackle previously insurmountable obstacles, but the most indicative response – especially in the startup space was this one, “The most rewarding part of mentoring is finding an insight that was missed by a founder and watching them light up at the new possibilities. Either a problem solved, or an opportunity discovered. Shoulders move back, head lifts, eyes widen. Seeing the lightbulb moment in front of you.”
While mentoring is often viewed as a one way street where the mentor sacrifices their time in order to help someone else, it appears that the age old practice of mentoring may continue to grow and thrive because there is so much value on both sides of the relationship.
Whether you become a mentor because you want to give back, learn and tap into a great network, or just because you are asked – becoming a mentor is almost guaranteed to be a very rich and enlightening experience for you – as well as the mentee.