Becoming an entrepreneur is a huge leap of faith. There are risks, known and unknown, and pitfalls galore. There are moments when doubts creep in as issues crop up, crises erupt, and things don’t go as expected. It’s all too easy to throw in the towel. At critical junctures, an entrepreneur feels the need of an unbiased friend, philosopher and guide. Enter the mentor.
Mentorship refers to a developmental relationship between a more experienced professional and a less experienced partner referred to as a protégé, a person guided and protected by a more prominent person. The mentor is someone who has ‘been there, done that’ before. Mentors inspire and challenge their mentee-entrepreneur to follow and realize their dreams.
The entrepreneurial journey
A typical entrepreneurial journey can be broken into three broad phases:
- Motivation Phase: This is the phase in which an individual with an idea takes the final decision to become an entrepreneur contemplates the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur and searches for the motivational trigger to give up what he has and to pursue his dream. In this phase he is still an aspiring entrepreneur. This phase ends when he takes the final decision to become an entrepreneur.
- Start up Phase: This is the phase where the entrepreneur has made a firm commitment to pursue an idea, has given up his job, made some form of a business plan and is either ready to get started or has already started work. This phase ends when the entrepreneur has adequate evidence of the viability of ideas after having pursued it for a reasonable period and is now looking to scale up.
- Scale up Phase: This is the stage at which the entrepreneur has a reasonably viable business plan and an existing customer base and is grappling with issues of scale, sustenance and so on.
In India, mentoring in its formal sense, especially for entrepreneurs, is in its infancy. Organisations like TiE, the world’s largest network of entrepreneurs, are now playing a leading role in helping mentor budding entrepreneurs, start-ups, and those interested in growth. In fact, mentoring is one of the cornerstones of TiE. One of the expressly stated purposes of TiE that its “charter members (accomplished entrepreneurs & businessmen) aim to give back to the community mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs”.
Typically, mentoring at TiE can help entrepreneurs in the start up phase and the scale up phase. Mentoring may not be able to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the Motivation Phase.
- TiE Chennai (based largely on inputs from a paper done for it by Totus Consultants)