Untitled Document

Guiding Principles for Mentors

When interacting with E-Scholar entrepreneurs, it is important to keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • A mentor’s role is to provide advice. You can teach, coach, listen, suggest, encourage, but it is the entrepreneur who must do the work.

  • Provide candid and honest appraisals in a positive and helpful manner. Show optimism about the entrepreneur’s ideas whenever you can, and deliver critiques thoughtfully. As you know, one thing an entrepreneur needs is encouragement. When you encounter ideas or actions that you think are not as we ll thought out as they might be, try to ask questions that guide the entrepreneur to discover that for him - or herself. (For example, asking “if you do that, what will happen next?” or “What will that mean for [another aspect of the business]?” will sometimes help someone see around the corner in time to avoid getting run over.)

  • Do not hesitate to be frank in your assessment of E -scholars. At some point they are going to get honest, even blunt, criticism from investors, and our students need to learn how to listen and respond to experts who question their assumptions and plans.

  • Suggest options and recommend alternative courses of action to help the venture self -correct, rather than say a presented course of action simply “won’t work.” Continue asking open ended questions.

  • Connect an entrepreneur to a resource in your personal network if you feel it will help him/her on his entrepreneurial path. Use your own network to help ventures be successful.

  • Mentors are the teachers in the mentor/venture relationship. Be sure to build a relationship of trust and confidentiality with the entrepreneurs with whom you are working.

  • Beware of being tempted to make the decision for the entrepreneur. This is a classic trap for mentors and one to be conscious of in your interactions with ventures.

  • Assess how the entrepreneurs you are working with learn. By adapting to the entrepreneur’s learning style the mentor can help build a relationship of trust and collegiality.

  • If you have a concern or question, don’t hesitate to address it. Report any and all concerns to the REGNIER INSTITUTE staff immediately.


Mentor Commitment

Expectations of Regnier mentors:

  • Participate a minimum of 8 hours a month in any activity that involves E-Scholar/student interaction

  • Attend one orientation and program launch mentor meeting in an academic year

  • Attend an E-Scholar Demo day

  • Participate in the monthly Mentor reviews

  • Provide feedback to staff of interactions with ventures and notify immediately if issues arise

  • Volunteer whenever they see situation where they can help and have the time

  • Respond in a timely manner to requests from Institute staff, faculty, and student entrepreneurs.

  • Feel comfortable in engaging other mentors with your mentee when an area needs additional emphasis with the knowledge and approval from E-Scholar Director.


Deploying Mentor Expertise

Mentors are principally concerned with educating entrepreneurs and assisting ventures to be commercially successful. By applying your collective experience to these ventures, you can provide a considerable level of expertise to ventures. The E-Scholars Program offers a practical curriculum of workshop-structured instruction designed to provide E-Scholars of all types with a practical academic framework for advancing their ventures. Mentors provide highly individualized coaching to ventures.

UMKC mentors are volunteers from the corporate, entrepreneurial, and academic communities who want to share their skills and knowledge in creating and guiding successful new ventures. Qualified mentors typically have the following expertise:

Business Expertise

  • Venture formation and funding

  • Strategic planning

  • Organizational management

  • Marketing

  • Specific technical fields

  • Strong coaching and advising skills

  • Passion and enthusiasm

  • Integrity and credibility

  • Good listening skills

In addition, mentor/venture matches are based on a mentor’s expertise in:

  • Functional areas – marketing, finance, operations, logistics, sales, etc.

  • Industry specific – manufacturing, biotech, consumer products, construction, energy, etc.


Intellectual Property

At UMKC, the Bloch School, and the Regnier Institute, our policy toward ownership of student-created intellectual property is simple: The student owns what the student creates. Neither the Institute nor the University takes any ownership in the ventures or ideas students create.

We ask that mentors respect that policy, and recognize that student’s intellectual property belongs to the student. Please respect, as well, the need for strict confidentiality concerning any proprietary information revealed by E-Scholar entrepreneurs regarding their ventures.

Commercial or Financial Involvement with Ventures

Developing any commercial relationship must be done with transparency and within the following guidelines:

  • Both venture and mentors are working together with the understanding that Institute mentor assistance is without financial cost and that all assistance by mentors to the venture is without financial compensation.

  • Ventures may feel an obligation to somehow pay back mentors for their effort. Please don’t put your advisee in the difficult position of feeling he or she must accept a commercial offer to continue receiving your mentoring eff ort. Make clear to the entrepreneur what is mentoring and what is commercial.

  • Should a mentor wish to become commercially involved in a venture, the mentor will need to wait until the E-Scholar graduates from the program.

  • Mentors shall be constantly vigilant regarding any potential conflict of interest; apparent or potential conflict s should be brought to the attention of program staff immediately.

  • Mentors should endeavor to ensure that ventures operate within UMKC policies, including the appropriate use of UMKC resources and intellectual property. Those policies are available on the UMKC website; moreover, if you are not certain about a particular issue, feel free to ask the program staff.

  • Mentors or E-scholar should not have any exchange of financial remuneration in the form of ownership, consulting fees, or ANY direct or indirect financial insolvent between a mentor and an E-Scholar or student while the E-Scholar is in the program, or a student is registered as a student at UMKC.

  • If a Student or E-Scholar becomes aware of any financial involvement of a mentor and the E-Scholar they must notify the Leadership of the Regnier Institute immediately.


Keep It Focused
What you want to achieve is that when he or she leaves the meeting, the mentee fee ls better about the venture than when they walked in.

Meetings go better with an agenda. Open the session with a general discussion of the meeting’s purpose. Example: “Today, let’s cover three things: Problems, alternatives, and action steps…” Then, at the end of the meeting, you can recap: “Okay, today we covered these three things: The core problem was… We discussed several alternatives… The things you need to do next are…”

The purpose is to focus on how to make the concept better, and how to expand the number of the student’s options. A student who walks in believing there is only one course of action open, but leaves feeling as though there are more options and more opportunities available, feels more energized and more enthusiastic about working even harder on the enterprise.

Keep It Positive

You can turn any negative into an opportunity. Are customers having a difficult time with one of your features? That difficulty may point out that:

  • You are talking to the wrong target market. (People in one age group might have a hard time understanding why Facebook might be worthwhile, whereas a younger person might see the value at once.)

  • A new product feature would be valuable to many people. (The product is “me -too,” but if it had this additional feature, it could be “me -too but better” or “me first!”)

  • You have not communicated the value proposition, or communicated it clearly, or communicated it in the right medium, to the audience.

  • Finding out about a problem doesn’t mean the meeting has to be negative.

  • “Tell me about the problem you are having. How did you first come across it? When did it show up?” Explain to the student that “It’s not unusual to experience this issue. Everyone goes through this.” Knowing that you, and others, have faced the same issue and worked through it is valuable. Sometimes, just knowing that a problem CAN be solved is half the solution.

Ask Lots of Questions - Use Socratic Process
We’ll provide a handout with some suggested questions that you can apply to almost any venture. Many of these the E-Scholar had to answer these questions in the application to the program. It’s okay to remind the entrepreneur about them, and to show that you are aware of the steps in the process. What are other ways you can make money? What are other revenue options you might consider? If this is a single product, why does it have to be? Can you think of what the next products in your line ought to be? If you are going to a single market, must that be the case? Can you think of another usage segment, another geographic segment, or another price point that will expand the market? What are other ways you can make money? What are other revenue options you might consider? If this is a single product, why does it have to be? Can you think of what the next products in your line ought to be? If you are going to a single market, must that be the case? Can you think of another usage segment, another geographic segment, or another price point that will expand the market?

Make It Real
End with a clear path, a number of steps that outline what the E-Scholar could do.