To question is to think. To think is to introspect. To introspect is to seek. To seek is to be aware. Being aware is when the journey begins.

Why do founders need a mentor?

The founders know their stakeholders well. They solve problems regularly. They like challenges and know how to solve problems. They are used to failures and successes. They were able to sell their ideas to investors and their solutions to consumers. After a few rounds of funding, they know they’re rich and networked.

Do they really need a mentor?

“They think they know. They think they know until they see they don’t. And by then it’s usually too late.

Mentors and Decisions

The primary role of mentors is to improve the quality of decisions made by founders. It is certainly not about making decisions on behalf of the founders.

With startup businesses becoming increasingly complex, the chances of success depend not just on hard work and ability to execute, but more on making the right decisions on time almost always. For founders, beyond a certain point, their family and friends are reluctant to provide feedback – sometimes even due to the person’s reluctance to agree, or simply due to the seriousness they have acquired.

Mentors offer objective criticism when needed and also candid contributions, as the success of their mentorship depends on the use of these contributions by the mentee, both of which can strengthen the personal and professional aspects of the founder. Successful founders have always used mentors to seek input, ideas, advice, and tips to cope and grow.

No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve accomplished, a good mentor is a valuable relationship to nurture. A committed mentor can help a founder along their evolutionary journey and help them to constantly introspect and reflect.

An honest mentor is neutral and helps the mentee challenge their thought process, alternative perspectives, and assumptions.

Mentors and Milestones

Mentors can help establish ground rules or healthy boundaries that help founders set priorities and define unacceptable behaviors. They also provide advice on work-life balance. Mentors help raise awareness of issues that may affect the well-being of founders. They can play a vital role in shaping a founder as a self-aware individual and not just with commercial contributions.

Mentors typically bring these to the table:

-their experience and expertise

– business understanding

-the wealth of learning from their own professional background and professional network


-ability to understand founders issues, as well as focus on larger goals to be accomplished

-what it takes to start a business

-ability to give honest feedback, regardless of who the founder is

-ability to focus on a situation and share their learnings so that the mentee can introspect themselves


The mentor-mentee relationship is a process based on mutual trust and the efforts invested by both parties. It could even be a business relationship, ideally a long-term success.

Don’t expect a mentor to wave a magic wand and fix all your problems or mistakes. Mentor advice will only be effective if you are willing to listen, unlearn, learn, and implement. Most importantly, be honest with your mentor – honest about the positives and negatives of your business, your flaws and abilities, and your fears.

Good Founder’s Guide

If you are looking for a new mentor, make a short checklist of your expectations.

What do you expect from the mentor?

What major immediate challenges and long-term goals do you need help with?

When you meet the person, do you feel safe and is their mutual conversation possible?

A good mentor usually listens more than he talks.

Has your mentor faced a crisis? Something that can be a lesson for your own business.

A good mentor talks about their experience and shares it truthfully so that it can be helpful to the mentee. Do you think this mentor is such a person?

Do you feel energized after the conversation?

Working with a mentor is life changing because it helps you understand who you are and what you want to become. Although mentors are not therapists, they help promote feelings of awareness and discovery that only come from conscious effort.

–The author, Srinath Sridharan, business advisor and independent market commentator. For other articles in the Coach Soch series, click here.