“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What are you good at?
- 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.
Also published on Medium.