A startup founder recently asked me a simple, yet startling, question during our monthly meetings. We have been working together for nearly two years, and as with all startups she has had her ups and downs. We have had all manner of conversations over the years and yet, in this one instance, her simple question floored me – “When I asked if you would be my mentor, why did you say yes?”
The first thing that surprised me was that she said “mentor” and not “adviser”. I have the pleasure of advising many companies. This means that I meet with them every now and again to offer some thoughts on a discrete problem, or I make an introduction or two. However, my relationship here was different. I was more than an adviser. I was a mentor to her. We meet once a month and I know a tremendous amount about her business, where she has been and where she hopes to go. I am proud to be her mentor so I wanted to provide an honest answer.
After collecting myself, I explained that there were three reasons why I said yes, in no particular order of importance:
- She was the first to ask.
- Mentoring helps reinforce the lessons I’m learning at my own company.
- I believe we have an obligation to help fellow travelers.