Mentors must ask questions the answers to which produce insights that help startups do better- no matter what stage they are at. The other day, I was witness to a conversation between the founder of a start-up and a couple of mentors (not associated with that entrepreneur or venture). As the founder explained the business, what struck me was the specificity of the questions the mentors asked. “Why do you think an offline model is better?” Boom! “Who do you think will make the purchase decision?” Boom! “Is it not better for you to start with Tier 2 towns/cities before you move to Tier 1 cities?” Boom! Clearly, the entrepreneur had not adequately thought through all of these questions. But a promise was made to do more research and use the findings to refine the business model, positioning etc.
The point being made is simple: while a mentor must encourage and motivate, the greatest amount of value a good mentor adds is by forcing the mentee to dig deeper, introspect and make sure that the bases are logically covered. Most entrepreneurs get enamoured by their business idea, and dive in without doing enough homework. That can well prove to be the difference between the venture taking off and a hard landing.