“You don’t know man. You weren’t there”
The Entrepreneurs Organisation has a rule. When groups of members meet in a small group called a Forum, they bear a simple mantra in mind;
“Speak Only From Experience”
With 7,500 members in 38 countries, this is a wise saying from a great organisation. Entrepreneurs love to give advice, and all too often, they quite literally don’t know what they are talking about. During ‘Forum’ meetings, the principle is followed. Afterwards, perhaps at the bar, members are welcome to tell each other what they ‘really think’ someone should do, what their ‘hunch’ is, or what they would do in the same situation. But during Forum, experience beats guesswork every time.
I’ve been thinking about the subject of mentoring this week. One question being asked in the UK at the moment is how we can get more entrepreneurs mentoring each other.
First of all, I’m not one of those people who think that you have to rise to some kind of super-hero, millionaire status before you can begin passing on the lessons you have learned. In the words of HorsesMouth, the online mentoring site, we all have something to teach and we all have something to learn. Not only might we need different mentors at different stages of our adventure, but we might need different people for different days of the week, depending on the challenge being faced.
Here are a couple of ideas;
Why not, either individually or together, work with either a HorsesMouth or a White Label Dating company to create a Mentor Matching platform? With the rule that you MUST speak from experience, members could search the database, like they would a dating site, and ask questions of the other members, who would list their particular skills and expertise.
Why not speak to the team at Yahoo! Answers about how their platform could be customised to create a National Mentor Platform, supported by some of the above organisations?
Perhaps the IOD, for example, is only interested in mentoring between its members. What if, on the other hand, they were willing to share the wisdom of their members with the next generation of young entrepreneurs? This could give them an amazing opportunity to invite up-and-coming business owners to enter their own ‘Mentor Exchange Programme’. I’m sure that many of the younger ones would have things that they could teach the older ones too.
Aside from asking specific questions online, we have to start organising more events, all over the UK, where entrepreneurs can meet a potential mentor. Of course I’m biased, however I suggest a Speednetworking element to these, as it will help guests to meet many more people, and chemistry is important.
Let’s imagine a series of events, hosted by the IOD, CBI or Chambers of Commerce. They would be in charge of bringing their members. Through a partnership with a publisher, other entrepreneurs seeking mentors could be attracted. How about Growing Business, Real Business, StartUps, Telegraph Business Club, Smarta, BusinessZone or Fresh Business Thinking? It would be a good way for the members organisations to attract new talent and by attending the events, the publishers could find interesting stories and even contributors.
If any of the parties above claimed not to see any good reason to get involved, then perhaps there might be a limited role for Government in stepping in to catalyze the process. Not necessarily with money, but perhaps by getting creative in thinking about spaces or access to inspirational speakers, who could be personally invited by a minister, for example.
Now, all we need is someone prepared to make a fool of themselves by compering a few of these events, blowing a whistle and holding the stopwatch….
Let know if you would be interested in plotting this further!
Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight