5 reasons to become a mentor

There’ll be a time in your career when you start to give more advice than you receive. At this point, consider becoming a mentor. Yes, squeezing Zoom calls into an already packed schedule to get into the weeds about a problem for someone who isn’t on your team isn’t easy. But great leaders will tell you that investing extracurricular time into making a positive impact is worth it. If you’ve been on the fence about joining a mentorship program, Thomas NatkowskieStrategy partner and managing director offers a few solid reasons to do it.   

Thomas Natkowski, Partner & Geschäftsführer
Thomas Natkowski

Partner & Managing Director

Thomas and Cliff Pfefferkorn, fellow partner and managing director, regularly volunteer to help new and seasoned entrepreneurs understand where their businesses fit in the market and build sustainable business models. In the past few years, the two managing directors have been official mentors with the Retail Tech Hub program in Munich. The accelerator program gave startups the opportunity to freely ask questions about how to assess their competition and how to build for long term growth.  

In the Fall of 2020, Cliff and Thomas have been invited to mentor once again, this time as socially-distanced mentors for Plug and Play Brand & Retail Batch 7. They will support innovative young companies on customer retention, talent rediscovery, workforce planning, group and family shopping, and gamified training and education. While they admit that volunteering while running a full-on consultancy takes a lot of effort, Thomas claims it’s all worth it. Here’s why:  

1. It’s just nice to help people 

There’s no jargon or buzzword for this first and most critical reason to mentor. Imagine only one piece of your advice could save first-time entrepreneurs months of wasted work and millions of euros. There’s a great Winston Churchill quote about helping others, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” and if you approach mentorship in this way, you’ll never think twice why you’re helping someone. There’s nothing like seeing that Aha moment when you help an open-minded mentee on a pressing issue. It doesn’t have to take up too much time either. Even an hour a week with a budding founder can make a big difference.  

2. It’s fun to deal with driven and ambitious individuals

A mentor trades time they could be spending on their career, helping someone else pursue their dreams. So when the mentee is passionate about learning, it makes time spent well worth it. Usually, Cliff and I are mentoring start-ups and their founders. And not just any start-ups, the teams have been preselected by accelerators or VCs. These individuals are intelligent, move fast, are dedicated, and are well educated and trained. This makes the experience both enjoyable and challenging. They are after really specific advice that requires expert know-how, experience, or a network. It’s also easier to give feedback and constructive criticism to highly motivated people because they push hard to learn from their mistakes.

3. Stay sharp with fresh perspectives.  

One of eStrategy’s core competencies is digital transformation in the trade ecosystem. We also specialize in business models like subscription, pay per use, pay per output, and general digital products and services. But, we know change is always around the corner. There will always be an innovation that will turn the industry on its head and challenge tried and tested methods.  

By solving problems with young companies in emerging fields and working with the latest technologies like AI, cloud technology or IoTwe live through new challenges and solve new problems. As a result, we continue to build a well-rounded palette of experiences to support our clients in the years to come.  

This year, we’re mentoring startups in super exciting spaces, including: gamification as a service, AI for high volume recruitment, social shopping, and CRM intelligence platforms. We’re answering their questions on monetization strategy, assessing their market competition, which partners would best suit them, and how they can cut through the hype and be successful in the long term.  

4. Develop your coaching skills  

Fifteen years as a senior executive doesn’t automatically qualify someone to be a leader or even a coach. First-time mentors make the mistake of just giving their mentee the answer to a tough question. But a dedicated mentor would give them the tools to solve the problems for themselves. By empowering someone else with decision-making skills, you’re less likely to have to deal with this issue again in the future. You don’t want your mentee to run to you whenever they scrape their knee. You want to make them stronger mentally.   

Furthermore, with ongoing mentorship programs, you can see the real-life impact of your feedback. With every session, you can see what’s making a difference, what advice gets ignored and improve the way you communicate. Coaching in itself is a skill that needs to be practiced, and you might not always get the opportunity to practice with your own team. This experience can make you a better manager within your own organization. 

5. Widen your network and increase your network value 

A natural byproduct of joining other strategic advisors in a formal mentorship program is regularly meeting fellow executives and expanding your network. Who knows, you may also acquire new clients in the process. We work with a wide range of partners, from large retailers, retail real estate companies, retail service partners, and meet people in this space when doing volunteer work. If you regularly contribute to building a more knowledgeable workforce, chances are, your reputation will precede you, and people will want to talk to you. If you’re working on your personal brand and want to establish yourself as a thought leader beyond a few LinkedIn posts, mentoring can boost your profile.   

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