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Guest Post by: Chris Lynch, Managing Director of Staples Rodway Taranaki and Judge at Startup Weekend Taranaki

Whether you’re starting out in business or leading a company with over 100 employees, there is one thing we all have in common – we don’t know everything! Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson and Larry Page all admit to having had guidance from mentors throughout their career. No matter who you are or what you’ve achieved in life, a good mentor is crucial to business and personal success.

The first step to finding a great mentor is to realise you need one in the first place! We are extremely lucky in Taranaki to be surrounded by experienced leaders who are willing to dedicate time to encouraging other business professionals in the region. Our business and creative community is stronger than ever and the opportunities are endless. So once you understand the importance of a mentor, the rest is pretty straight forward – start looking!

Startup Weekend Taranaki is the latest offering in mentorship programmes, and one that Staples Rodway is very proud to invest in. The event founders believe that, “Empowering others is the best way to identify leaders, build communities, and inspire change.” This is hugely important if we are to build successful businesses in Taranaki that bring growth and wealth to the region.

Startup Weekend isn’t just about having a unique idea that sells. Yes, each team forms around an idea and spends 54 hours working on this idea but the event itself offers more than that. During the event, participants are surrounded by dozens of other like-minded individuals. Whether it’s other coders, designers or entrepreneurial spirits – being immersed in this environment can only provide inspiration to those involved. The mentors then form the next layer of substance. Having the guidance of experienced business people gives the idea legs to form into a real business that can make money.

Last year alone, 2 ideas have turned into startups as a result of the Taranaki Startup Weekend. But if this event isn’t for you, there are still other ways of reaping the benefits of mentorship. Venture Taranaki offers a Business Mentoring Programme where they match people in small businesses with experienced mentors to offer advice, knowledge and a different perspective. Because they have such a wide range of mentors, you can choose to work with people who specialise in different aspects of business – and once you are more comfortable in one area, you can work with a different mentor on another area of your business.

Mentors offer industry-specific advice based on their years of trying and failing. They can be a sounding board for ideas or a devil’s advocate and they don’t have to cost the earth either! Many start-ups work on a tight budget in the early years so utilising these easily-accessible options could be the start of a very successful partnership for you.

Below are some helpful tips for creating and maintaining successful mentoring relationships:

  1. Quality over quantity. It’s not about finding as many people to help you are possible, but finding the best. These are often the most successful people in their industry. Senior level professionals have had the most experience in their business career, good and bad, so consider this when choosing a mentor – learn from people’s successes, but more importantly their mistakes.
  2. Find a Mentor that shares the same business values. It’s the same for any business relationship, the person must believe in you to be able to help you succeed. They also must be willing to spend time with you no matter how busy their lives may be. Mutual respect goes a long way.
  3. Respect your mentor. You may not like what they tell you sometimes but they are successful for a reason. Also be respectful of their time and take notes so that you don’t forget what they say.
  4. Find a mentor now! Even if you are only just developing the business idea, find a Mentor. The sooner the better when it comes to seeking trusted advisors.
Chris Lynch, Managing Director of Staples Rodway Taranaki and Judge at Startup Weekend
Chris Lynch, Managing Director of Staples Rodway Taranaki and Judge at Startup Weekend
Katherine Blaney