Branson was speaking from personal experience (he credited Sir Freddie Laker with helping him succeed in the airline industry) and his words stack up: from Steve Jobs advising Mark Zuckerberg on the launch of Facebook, to Warren Buffett passing on words of wisdom to Bill Gates as he scaled Microsoft, the history of the business world is filled with famous mentorship partnerships – and for good reason. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 70% of small business leadership teams that receive mentoring survive for five years or more – double the rate of those without mentors.
As platform and community manager at MMC, I’m always looking for ways to leverage our collective contacts. It got me thinking that those with first-hand experience of building a company from proof-to-concept upwards are best placed to pass on skills to help future companies grow. This is why we have launched the MMC Peer Learning Network to enable our community of entrepreneurs to connect, upskill and pass on their experience.
So, what exactly is mentoring and why is it so effective?
Get a fresh take on old problems
A mentor is someone who can support your self-directed learning, listen to your ideas, give honest feedback and provide business advice where appropriate. Because they are not directly involved in your company, they can give constructive criticism and offer a much-needed objective point of view.
Mentors can work with you as you navigate the challenges typically faced in scaling companies; from conceiving a viable business model, to fundraising and governance, and designing an organisational structure. It is particularly valuable to seek out people with different perspectives who can give you a fresh take on your problems and help you to see past biases and blind spots.
Build career-changing relationships
Working in scaling businesses can present unique challenges. Even while the fast pace and shared ambition can build camaraderie, you’re often the only one with your specific expertise, whether that’s product development or pitching for new business. Having one or more mentors not only allows you to bounce ideas off someone, but also provides emotional support during the ups and downs of startup life.
By partnering with your peers, you also have the chance to build genuine relationships across sectors rather than hovering awkwardly at the edge of networking events (we’ve all been there!). By starting a peer learning network, everyone – from founders and management teams to first jobbers – can benefit from shared knowledge and relationships.