Guiding Principles for Mentors

Providing Advice

  • A mentor’s role is to provide advice. You can teach, coach, listen, suggest, encourage, but it is the entrepreneur who must do the work.
  • Provide candid and honest appraisals in a positive and helpful manner. Show optimism about the entrepreneur’s ideas whenever you can and deliver critiques thoughtfully. As you know, one thing an entrepreneur needs is encouragement. When you encounter ideas or actions that you think are not as well thought out as they might be, try to ask questions that guide the entrepreneur to discover that for him- or herself. (For example, asking “if you do that, what will happen next?” or “What will that mean for [another aspect of the business]?” will sometimes help someone see around the corner in time to avoid getting run over.)
  • Do not hesitate to be frank in your assessment of E -scholars. At some point they are going to get honest, even blunt, criticism from investors, and our students need to learn how to listen and respond to experts who question their assumptions and plans.
  • Suggest options and recommend alternative courses of action to help the venture self-correct, rather than say a presented course of action simply “won’t work.” Continue asking open ended questions.

Providing Connections

  • Connect an entrepreneur to a resource in your personal network if you feel it will help him/her on his entrepreneurial path. Use your own network to help ventures be successful.

Providing Insight

  • Mentors are leaders in the mentor/venture relationship. Mentors should actively set a tone of trust and confidentiality.
  • Be conscious that you are not making decisions for the entrepreneur. Offer your expert opinion while always encouraging the entrepreneur to make the final call.
  • Assess and adapt to the learning style of each entrepreneur. This signals value and mutual understanding in venture interactions.
  • Report all concerns to the RIEI staff.