I met with Garrett Melby a few weeks ago to receive feedback on the third iteration of the mentoring system. Some of the crucial pieces of information that I needed to better understand includes the business readiness intake, how mentors would sign-up for the service, how mentors and entrepreneurs would follow-up once they had an advising session, and how best to communicate the entrepreneurs request for mentoring.
The diagram below shows the next iteration of the mentoring network with feedback incorporated into it, and I've also been wrestling with a possible logo, brand, and mission statement for this thesis project. The current name is talKIN (it's a play on 'kin' referring to community). The mission statement is a conversation focused mentoring and advising community for entrepreneurs. The rest of this blog post will cover the different areas I received feedback on and various other details that have shed insight into better designing a mentoring network.
The business readiness intake is a two step process. First, the entrepreneurs from the original candidate group funnel themselves into idea stage, launch stage or operating business. This first part of the business readiness intake also asks for the elevator pitch and contact information. The second part of the filter has two components. The first component takes the idea and launch stage entrepreneurs and has them meet with an early stage strategist. The purpose of meeting with an early stage strategist is to help the idea and launch stage entrepreneur discover their problem areas, understand where to they need to focus, and where they need the most help. The second component takes the operating business and has it self-diagnose where its problem areas. The reason the idea and launch stage entrepreneurs meet with an early stage strategist is because entrepreneurs at this stage, do not yet know how best to focus their efforts or even the order of actionable steps to start a business.
When mentors from the different local mentoring organizations sign-up for this service, they choose based upon a sliding scale, their expertise and interests. Some of these areas include business development, customer development, finance, fundraising, legal, marketing, operations, product development, sales, and team. The mentor also chooses the industries they've worked in, provides their schedule, and how long they would like to have a mentoring session. Finally, the mentor chooses whether they would like to meet early stage, launch stage, and/or operating businesses.
Communicating to the various mentors on the network about the entrepreneur's problem areas is a delicate matter. To prevent mentors and advisers from fishing and to make sure that the entrepreneur feels safe about communicating the problems they're experiencing, the request for mentoring becomes a request review. The request review is less detailed and only presents the different areas the entrepreneur needs help without describing the problem the entrepreneur is experiencing. The request review is then sent out to mentors that match based upon industry, schedule, meeting duration, expertise, idea stage, launch stage, or operating business. Once a mentor agrees to meet, the mentor receives an email with a greater description of the problems the entrepreneur is having. Another detail is that a mentor can see whether another mentor has already agreed to meet, so they don't double book a session with the entrepreneur. This will prevent a waste of resources.
After the mentoring session comes follow-up. At this time, we ask the entrepreneur to give feedback on whether they found the conversation useful based upon the ideas discussed with the entrepreneur. For example, we would the entrepreneur whether they conversation moved him or her to action, or whether the ideas seem like good ideas when they acted on them. Furthermore, it seems vital that feedback is incorporated from both the entrepreneur and mentor about each other, but figuring out whether these will be positive or negative screens has not yet been determined.
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