I was recently asked to join the board of directors…of my friend Sammy. He calls it his Personal Board of Directors (PBOD) and I am responsible for career guidance. I love the recruiting space and if I can be helpful to my friends re: resumes, interviews, and introductions, I will. It is not your standard directorship, but something I take seriously. Everyone should have a PBOD. I have leaned on my PBOD (you know who you are) heavily since starting Dashfire for everything from introductions to life coaching. I was surprised to learn that people want to lend support and guidance.
Mentoring is also strongly encouraged in the entrepreneurship community. I heard Jeff Bussgang, VC extraordinaire from FlyBridge Capital, give the keynote speech at the Kellogg Entrepreneurship Conference in May*. He stressed the importance of mentorship and attributed his entrepreneurial and investor successes to the guidance and support he received from his mentors. He encouraged all entrepreneurs to surround themselves with mentors and asked serial entrepreneurs and investors to actively mentor. David Cohen, co-founder of TechStars, presented at an Excelerate Labs event last summer, and he delivered one of my favorite quotes related to informal mentorship: “if you meet someone who doesn’t have a clue, take the time to give him a clue.” David believes in the start-up ecosystem and stresses that the existing participants should support the growth of entrepreneurship. I agree. Many of our Dashfire partners form advisory boards as they gain traction. But I believe it is of equal importance to have a personal sounding board when launching or even contemplating a new venture.
While starting EverTrue, Brent Grinna (also a Dashfire advisor) surrounded himself with influential mentors who provided constructive guidance to help evolve the EverTrue business model from alumni mobile applications to donor intelligence. Consistent with Bussgang’s view of a two-way mentorship, Brent is also a selfless mentor and advisor who willingly makes introductions, provides feedback, and even helps raise capital for entrepreneurs and companies he supports. In his previous finance life, Brent connected numerous people with jobs in private equity and investment banking.
Check your LinkedIn connections and Twitter community and identify your Brent Grinnas (business idea: LinkedIn should start tracking influential connections — people who make actual contributions). Form your PBOD with people who are genuinely interested in your development. They can be your friends, parents, or colleagues. Don’t hesitate to ask people you may not personally know or are only connected via social networks; if they see your, they will want to help you. And if you can move the needle (a must read post by Sid Shah) for others, you should! Mentoring and advising your friends and colleagues will only make you sharper and better position you to seek mentorship.
*Jeff also cautioned the audience on prematurely labeling the current environment a “bubble”: ”In 1996, my company had a $1.8bn market cap and $1.2mm of revenue. If you had exited the market on account of a bubble, you would have missed the greatest period of wealth creation…ever. Is 2011 like 1996 or like 1999?” -Jeff Bussgang