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StartupNation Mentoring

JohnSivJohnSiv subscriber Posts: 1
I`m starting this forum topic to get some community insights into the needs/pros/cons of mentorship. I`ve read a number of forums that ask about this, and in some sense the entire forum system has a mentoring aspect. What I`d like to learn more about are suggestions to make mentoring a prominent and successful component of StartupNation.

Maybe it requires small peer groups or some formalized process. Maybe it can be grown organically. I`d sure like thoughts, ideas, and technologies anyone as seen.


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    InactiveMemberInactiveMember subscriber Posts: 12
    I`m known for blunt posts. Please keep in mind that the tone of this post isn`t meant to sound harsh.
    The SUN forums are all about mentoring. There seem to be two types of members: a small number of experienced members with business degrees or a lot of business experience and a large number of inexperienced members. A lot of forum activity revolves around experienced members helping inexperienced members. The more experienced members contribute really valuable advice; advice for which their real-world clients pay thousands of dollars. A lot of the advice offered by inexperienced members is sort of ... how do I put this delicately ... bad. I routinely see "bad" advice in the forums but very rarely correct it because it`s arrogant to do so.
    The strong D.I.Y. ethic found in many entrepreneurs leads many of them right into very deep water. This manifests in mangled web sites, poor execution, inability to form strategy, etc. The inexperienced members often don`t know when they`re in over their heads with strategy, marketing, design, etc.
    I`m not painting myself as one of the experienced members, but there are only so many times I can write the same web site critique: "focus on what you offer, not what you do", "your front page has 500 words; that`s too many", "clean up this", "clean up that". Seriously, I find myself writing the same web site critique over and over and over and over. Similarly, I find myself writing the same posts about marketing, and occasionally, about pricing strategy.
    Even if I tell someone how to fix their site, they won`t have learned much. No understanding of basic copywriting technique has been conveyed when I tell someone that 500-10,000 word count is not good landing page strategy. The web design crowd tries to educate inexperienced members about CSS and so forth, but again ... deaf ears mostly. As a member of the jargon police with respect to marketing communication, I find it quite interesting that a lot of the somewhat less experienced marketing people have web sites that fail to effectively market their own services. [Blind leading blind anyone?]
    Perhaps the most useful form of mentoring would be a reading list. I think the minimum reading list for any entrepreneur is 50-100 books. I`ve never seen anyone here recommend Michael Porter. Or books on pricing strategy. Or marketing. In fact I haven`t run across many book recommendations at all. Knowledge is power. StartupNation almosts needs a "StartupNation MBA" section. Strategy, marketing, copywriting, sales, operations, accounting. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who lack even basic business training.
    Some sort of "StartupNation Business Basics" initiative would be valuable.
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    JeffJeff subscriber Posts: 1
    Man Cookie Monster is harsh!!
    OK...just kidding....frankly, I like strong opinions, even if I don`t agree with them. In this case, I have to say that I like the idea of providing mentoring a lot. I alsolike the idea of having a library of great entrepreneurial books available at SUN, and this is something we`re in the planning stages of offering. Knowledge is indeed power, and it can come in many forms. Books, mentoring, the SUN radio show, trial and error, etc. are all pathways to learning.
    I`m curious to learn more about your thoughts on how we`d execute a SUN MBA section. Would it be strictly books (text and content) or would it include virtual classrooms, etc.?
    Keep the smarts coming.....
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    JohnSivJohnSiv subscriber Posts: 1
    It seems like the idea of having a place to go and meet with a small select group (maybe people with similar occupations, or ...) resonates, especially if it isn`t completely in the public domain. It makes sense, and I`m aware of a couple of sites where that is all they do. It would be nice to balance that with the knowledge that so many others could gain from the discussion.

    In deference to Cookie Monster, he`s right on that the forums try to offer that today, and I`ve been thinking about ways we could develop a useful recommended reading list. The StartupNation Book Club started down the path of reviewing books, so maybe this is something that could be additive. We`ll see.

    Please keep the ideas coming.
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    AlisonAlison subscriber Posts: 8
    Cookie Monster,I would like to recommend a book on marketing: Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch.  He was a recent guest on our radio show.  Listen to the podcast.We often have authors on the show who have written books that are full of useful information!  Check them out in the book club forum. 
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    InactiveMemberInactiveMember subscriber Posts: 12
    I think a reading list would be a great start to the SUN MBA for Entrepreneurs. Rather than classes, there should be simple, practical exercises that deal with real fundamentals:
    "Why is this tagline great?" "Why is this tagline bad?""Why is this the right solution to an operations problem?" "Why is this the wrong solution to an operations problem?""Why should the entrepreneur avoid this market or product line?""Why is cost plus pricing poor strategy?""Why should you avoid hypercompetitive markets?""What is buyer power?""What is supplier power?""What are barriers to entry?""What is sustainable competitive advantage?"
    A hands on approach is important. Teaching cashflow is fairly easy: create an exercise that shows an entire year`s worth of monthly revenue and monthly expenses for a fictional business. Ask the entrepreneur to determine when cashflow problems will occur and the dollar amount needed in reserve for the business to avoid bankruptcy or severe cash crunches. That`s just addition and subtraction. Running out of cash is an obvious problem but the timing issues related to cashflow are far less obvious.
    Entrepreneurs need to educate themselves, even if it means a lot less time spent on their business. Because a poorly informed entrepreneur works inefficiently and finds himself unable to understand how to address fundamentals at a low level. Entrepreneurs have to solve a lot of problems and lack of education makes it impossible to determine the actual problem, let alone solve it. In my posts, I perform a lot of "symptomatic triage". This means that I treat the symptoms of inexperience or lack of education but I don`t solve the real problem. Often the real problem is a saturated market. Or a business that tries to sell administrative assistant services and article writing services at the same time and then wonders why their customers are confused. Confused customers shop elsewhere.
    For example, many web sites are so poorly written as to have almost no chance of serving as an effective sales/promotion channel. Any web site that has the wrong information is poorly written, regardless of the quality of the writing itself. This leaves an entrepreneur wondering "Why is my web site ineffective?". There are many reasons to explain the ineffectiveness of any web site. Example: Is the problem with the business model? Is there a problem with the copywriting? With pricing?
    Another great is example is the entire subject of marketing. A significant percentage of entrepreneurs think marketing is advertising, when in fact advertising is only a small part of the promotion component of marketing. As you are aware, marketing is a multi-faceted discipline. There is a lot to know about marketing and most of it has nothing to do with advertising. I`ve sometimes said that good marketing is like a good date, full of interesting, relevant, two-way conversation. Bad marketing is like a date where one person does all the talking. Marketing is not an advertisement in the local circular. Marketing is not a press release. Coupons are not marketing.
    The most important message of such an initiative would be "education, education, education". My experience with many of the less experienced SUN members is that many of them do not appear to realize the need for broad spectrum education. Or if they realize it, they don`t know what they need to learn. For example, my previous post touched on copywriting. Basic copywriting skills are essential for any entrepreneur, yet I believe many inexperienced SUN members don`t even realize that they *need* to read a few books or articles on copywriting. Being an entrepreneur requires a very wide range of skills, and I am beginning to think the best advice for many of the SUN members with basic questions is as follows: get a library card and go to the business section. Pick out a few books and read. Repeat.
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    InactiveMemberInactiveMember subscriber Posts: 12
    Denise, your comments are first rate.
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