Grant Downie From InnovAction on Mentoring Startup Founders [Podcast]

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In episode #08 of the Fliplet podcast we were joined by Grant Downie, entrepreneur, advisor, and mentor.

Who is Grant Downie?

Grant has been working with startups for over six years in a mentoring capacity to help founders grow and develop themselves, and their business.

Coming from a corporate background, Grant shares his experiences with founders and uses his wealth of knowledge and extensive networks to help them tackle the thorny issues they are facing.

What is mentoring?

Grant describes mentoring as the:

“Sharing of experiences between two people or groups who can benefit from one another to achieve goals or avoid mistakes.”

He has found that it’s most effective for founders or business owners who are facing something that they’ve never done before. That being said a mentor can also be helpful when a founder is struggling with something that they do have previously had experience with and know they want to get much better at it.

What are the different types of mentor?

As Grant points out, almost all founders will face some form of isolation along their journey running a startup. There will be many highs and lows, so a mentor can be a valuable medium through which a founder can voice their concerns, and discuss progress.

Most importantly, a mentor is “someone who has been there before” – in many cases this means that they’ve been a founder at some point in the past.

They can help founders support to get past the challenges that they’re facing, rather than just offering support, which differentiates a mentor from a friend.

Who can have a mentor?

If you’re wondering who can have a mentor you might be surprised to learn that Grant suggests that it’s not only founders who can benefit. If you want to do any of the following you might find a mentor helpful:

  • How to grow or develop yourself
  • How to identify ways to grow your business
  • How to progress your professional career – what steps to take next

How to use a mentor effectively

Generally speaking, people who want to actively learn will get the most from their mentor, according to Grant. It is always useful to get clear about why you want a mentor and it might also be helpful to structure your mentoring relationship before you begin.

Taking a formal approach to your mentoring may mean that you simply pay your mentor per hour and use the time to address specific topics or concerns.

A more informal approach may mean that you repay your mentor through non-monetary methods. Having flexible terms of your mentorship could mean meeting up for a coffee or beer

How to find the ideal mentor

As is suggested in the podcast, you should spend some time to determine exactly what it is that you’d like to achieve from your mentorship. What is it that you need to overcome, or improve?

You should ideally seek mentors who are experts in the area you want help in, they don’t necessarily have to be from your field or industry.

These mentors will have direct experience in roles that relate to your business, plus they will have contacts that could be beneficial in the future.

Getting in touch with a potential mentor shouldn’t be a concern either. Anyone who is open to mentoring will most likely be happy to receive a well considered approach.

LinkedIn, according to Grant, can be a simple and effective method of of identifying existing relationship connections to locating potential mentors.

Why do some mentorships not work out?

It’s normally down to two key reasons that a mentorship fails or ceases to be effective:

  • It runs its course – the mentee is no longer benefitting from the mentor’s advice
  • The mentor feels that the mentee isn’t listening, or is failing to try the things being proposed or suggested

As Grant points out, he’s worked with many clients that have simply moved on from requiring his advice, so ending your mentorship shouldn’t always be considered a bad thing.

Make sure you check out the full podcast with Grant and Ian, our CEO.

Have you ever had a mentor? Are you considering getting a mentor but are unsure where to start?

You can reach out to Grant on LinkedIn or through his company’s website, InnovAction.