Stop Wasting Time in Mentor Meetings
Strong mentor relationships can be the key to success for many startups. Programs like the Iowa Startup Accelerator connect startups to incredibly well connected and knowledgeable mentors, but the effectiveness of meeting with mentors depends on the teams.
“As a mentor, you are there to help the teams succeed. You are not there to hold their hand.” That’s how ISA Mentor-in-Residence Levi Bostian looks at mentoring. After working with the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s Mentor Program for the past two years, Levi has spent countless hours helping early stage startups grow their businesses. Here are some of his top tips to make your meetings with mentors more productive.
- Don’t have meetings just to have meetings.
In order for a meeting to be productive, teams need to have a reason for a meeting beyond just having a meeting. “Every meeting should move the team forward over that wall of theirs,” Levi says. If the meeting is only for the sake of having a meeting, it’s not of any use to the mentor or the team. One way to spend less time on catch up during meetings is to have detailed, regular stakeholder newsletters. Providing these newsletters helps mentors know what you’re working on, the struggles you face, and the progress you make. At the Iowa Startup Accelerator, our mentor network overwhelmingly found good stakeholder communication to be helpful from teams.
- Come prepared.
In order to have a really good mentor meeting, teams need to have a goal in mind. Usually, Levi says this happens when a team is stuck or they are unsure about a decision to make. Get ready to get to the point of your meeting by preparing 1-5 questions about the roadblock or decision you face to help keep your meeting focused.
- Be detailed.
Having questions prepared isn’t enough for a good mentor meeting. Your questions have to be well structured so that mentors can give actionable advice instead of general suggestions. Levi wants to hear the “why” that goes with a general question. Providing context to a general question will make your meeting far more productive because your mentor will have more specific and detailed advice. Instead of asking, “What are tips for doing Instagram marketing?” try this instead: “We have a hypothesis that our customers are using Instagram to ABCD and we have decided to run a EFGH campaign to accomplish XYZ. What are tips for doing Instagram marketing?”
After a week or two, check back in with the mentor you met with, even if you don’t regularly meet with them. Let them know if you moved forward and need further advice on the subject. Doing so will help mentors to know what sort of advice they gave was helpful and what to research in preparation for your next meeting.
Levi Bostian specializes in mobile apps (Android, iOS development) but his knowledge of other tech makes him a valuable mentor all-around. While he only actively develops mobile apps, he has built web apps and software in the past and works with clients currently developing them. Levi also has a passion for UX design and helps teams to make their products smarter, more streamlined, and incredibly user friendly. Besides being involved in mobile apps and business, Levi is also an environmentalist, blogger, startup mentor, and street art geek.
The Iowa Startup Accelerator maintains the largest and most diverse network of mentors in the state of Iowa. Every #MentorMonday, we celebrate the amazing people that donate their time and talent to help us accelerate entrepreneurs and their businesses. Look for more posts and social media shoutouts each week featuring members of our mentor network.
Learn more about the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s mentor network here: http://newbo.co/iowa-startup-accelerator/mentor-program/