4 Questions That Reveal What’s Important To You

What kind of entrepreneur are you?

“The first thing I do with someone who asks me to mentor them is ask four questions,” said Alan Urech, one of the most dedicated and experienced mentors in the Atlanta startup community.

Learning from Alan

I was just leaving the Grace@Work Bible Study that met in the Atlanta Tech Village Speakeasy room off the lobby. It was a busy day, and I was running to another meeting.

In my haste, I missed the significance of what he was telling me. But somehow I knew it was important and asked if he would meet me another time so I could better understand his mentoring approach.

We did have that meeting. I found Alan to be an incredible wealth of startup and business wisdom and ideas. He has a binder of typed notes he created from all he learned in his 40 plus years in business. He has everything from “The five phases of a business, the challenges and how to overcome them” to “The five business areas I first look for in a startup investment.” As we talked, I found myself taking lots of notes.

Having a Desire to Serve

What struck me about Alan was his desire to serve. He, like me, loves entrepreneurs. He wants to be around them and help them achieve their dreams. But not all of them, I found out later.

As we were concluding our meeting, I said, “You never told me about the four questions you ask entrepreneurs who want to be mentored.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he said.

  1. What is important to you? This could be areas like being a good husband or dad. Providing for my family. Being respectful to all people. Staying true to my church and faith.
  2. What is not important to you? This could be areas like travel, a new car each year, a big house, going drinking with friends, etc.
  3. What are you good at?
  4. What are you not good at?

“These are pretty simple questions. What makes them special to you?” I asked.

Choices Make the Difference

He said, “The answers to these questions make it clear to me if I can work with this entrepreneur.”

“Give me an example of when you chose not to work with the entrepreneur,” I said.

He explained, “I had a highly qualified entrepreneur tell me he never wanted a family. Now that is his personal business and his life and not mine, but, because of this answer, I chose not to work with him.”

He hesitated, “I believe family is very important to living a full life. Life isn’t just about ideas, business, money and success. That’s one of my values, which he didn’t share. Without common values such as this, I knew I couldn’t mentor him.”

Uncovering the Values Fit

In the mentoring programs around town, I never hear anybody talk about values. So when Alan told me this story, it hit me hard. Mentors are looking for a value fit first, then a business, skills and personality fit. The mentor and the mentee must treasure the same values. This is the foundation of a mentoring relationship.

I admire Alan for his dedication to our entrepreneur community. He genuinely wants to help. When he talks about the people he mentors, he is like a proud father promoting his kids. I can tell he loves and respects them and is excited about what they are creating. We can never have too many mentors like Alan in our community.

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3 thoughts on “4 Questions That Reveal What’s Important To You

  1. For years I told myself: there are plenty of people in the world that I can help; I can’t help them all; I might as well help the people I like. Yet somehow, this never sat quite right. What if the people I don’t like, need the most help? Discernment is required in choosing who to mentor but basing it too much on commonality can limit your influence and your opportunities for personal and professional growth. Our Daily Bread, July 24, 2017, is insightful:
    “‘Community’ is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives, says Henri Nouwen. Often we surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community. “

    • Kathy and I were in a fast food restaurant and watched a difficult customer in action. He also didn’t speak english. He really upset the young lady at the counter. Then he sat down and proceeded to make a bit of a mess by spilling a full cup of water. I went to the counter and told the young lady and she said, “I’m not going to help him.” Then I told her what Jesus said. It is easy to love our friends. It is the enemies which are the issue. She went over and cleaned up the table. Thanks for taking the time to write all of us.

  2. Synergies between mentor and mentee provide a good foundation for such leadership training.
    Very good questions and I would answer as:

    1) Family and the well-being of people in general
    2) What brand of clothes I wear, what car I drive …
    3) Identifying problems as opportunities for innovative solutions
    4) I am not a PR person