Getting Help From a Business Mentor
An inventor, especially a new one, may feel isolated. The creation of a product from an initial idea is demanding. There are pitfalls along the way that can discourage even the most determined person.
This is why an inventor may benefit by getting help from a business mentor. A mentor can give advice that avoids snags, and can offer solutions to troublesome problems.
The RelationshipTo begin with, an inventor must understand the nature of his or her relationship with a business mentor. An experienced mentor knows this, and will often propose some guidelines.
The guidelines cover matters such as the time spent on mentoring; the goal of the mentoring process; and the milestones along the way.
Guidelines also describe the form that the mentoring takes. This may be one-to-one or in a group. It may be at face-to-face meetings, over the phone, online, or a mix of all three.
An inventor must be as flexible as possible to meet these requirements. In return, a business mentor will listen to an inventor’s concerns; pinpoint strengths and weaknesses of the invention process; help an inventor set goals; and give expert guidance.
Obtaining a MentorOne of the best ways of finding a suitable mentor is to ask other inventors. The British Inventors Society can help. There is no subscription charge, and an inventor can access a wide range of contacts.
These contacts can point an inventor towards a suitable business mentor. They also provide a forum for the discussion of innovation and ideas.
Another source of advice about mentors is Ideas21. This organization meets every month at the UK Intellectual Property Office in London. Members include not just inventors, but entrepreneurs and intellectual property experts.
Among its many benefits, Ideas21 has an e-newsletter; advice seminars for female inventors; and regular workshops.
Other similar UK groups include the Scottish Innovators Network. This meets ten times a year in Glasgow, and can provide a helping hand for inventors who need mentoring support.
A further body worth contacting for mentoring advice is the government’s Business Link service. The Regional Development Agencies fund Business Link, and provide nine area contacts. Useful organisations affiliated to Business Link include Flexible Support for Business (Wales); Invest NI (Northern Ireland); and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (Scotland.)
Finally, some universities and private companies offer mentoring to inventors. The universities are interested in promoting innovation in a particular part of the country, and have close links with local firms. The private companies are keen to support new ideas that have profitable potential.
Getting the Best from MentoringHaving obtained a business mentor, an inventor must ensure that he or she benefits from the mentoring process as much as possible.
An inventor should therefore be proactive and positive. This means that an inventor must try to resolve problems before speaking to a mentor. The mentor will appreciate this approach and respect the inventor for it.
An inventor must also be open-minded. When a mentor gives advice, or offers well-meant criticism, the inventor must be ready to accept it.
Finally, an inventor must never forget that a mentor is an experienced business person. A mentor therefore responds best to an inventor who shows a businesslike attitude.
Any inventor who adopts the above approach should find that mentoring makes life much easier.