What is being a mentor to a start-up entrepreneur like?

In an earlier blog the fivesquid team explored the merits of entrepreneurs using mentors for their start-ups. Today, the team are looking at the other side of the lens by exploring what it’s like being a mentor. The team will explain the ins and outs of all things mentoring from the mentor’s perspective.

What’s the best thing about being a mentor?

Without a doubt the best thing is having the respect and trust of your client – it’s an honour. Ego aside the mental challenge of being able to share your life experiences and expertise to guide your client is hugely rewarding. And of course, being part of your client’s journey – seeing them blossom and grow to the point where they seek your counsel less and less.

What are the frustrations of mentoring and how do you work round them?

Not being able to step in and make the decision – you’re in the back seat, sometimes you have to let things play out and you can never say I told you so! The ability to emotionally handle when your client disagrees with your counsel and understand that it’s ultimately their choice can be tough. The art is knowing when to let go and still be there for counsel down the line. The old adage of when to hold and when to fold is certainly true here. This can be hard when you’re emotionally invested in your client.

How do you get into mentoring?  

Generally, because someone recommended you which means you have experience that people think is valuable and the personality traits that are suited to the role. Solid business acumen is fundamental to being a mentor, as is emotional intelligence. Sector knowledge can be beneficial but not necessarily essential, it can give you silo thinking whereas someone from a different sector may approach something completely differently. You do need experience to be a mentor, anyone claiming to being a mentor as a first or even second job we'd argue that they’re confusing mentoring with coaching - that's another story.

Are mentors consultants?

This is another area of confusion. The answer is a straight up no! A mentor doesn’t tell their client what to do. There’s a saying that consultants use a client’s watch to tell them the time - you could say that a mentor winds the watch up and it’s up to the client to decide if it’s one-fifteen or quarter past one.

Is there a natural lifespan to a mentor?

Mentors and their charges go through a natural process of evolution. If as a mentor you’ve been successful, then the advice required will change in nature and frequency as the skills of the client develop. The mentor role will continue to change, eventually coming to an end. However, if the mentoring process goes well for both parties it could well lead into a board advisory, non-executive director role or perhaps the next big idea.


Mentoring isn’t for everyone; it’s as rewarding as it’s frustrating. If you’re a control freak that likes to see things through to the end you need not apply. If you’re a mentor and have any insights, you’d like to share we’d love to hear from you.