Expectations FOR MENTORS

Providing Advice

  • A mentor’s role is to provide advice. You can teach, coach, listen, suggest, and encourage, but the entrepreneur must do the work.
  • Provide candid and honest appraisals in a positive and helpful manner. Show optimism about the entrepreneur’s ideas 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 well thought out as they might be, try to ask questions that guide the entrepreneur to discover that for themself. (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. At some point, they will 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.

Providing Connections

  • Connect an entrepreneur to a resource in your network if you feel it will help them on their entrepreneurial path. Use your network to help ventures be successful.

Providing Insight

  • Mentors are leaders in the mentor/venture relationship. Mentors should actively set a tone of trust and confidentiality.
  • Be conscious that you are not making decisions for the entrepreneur. Offer your expert opinion while always encouraging the entrepreneur to make the final call.
  • Assess and adapt to the learning style of each entrepreneur. This signals value and mutual understanding in venture interactions.
  • Report all concerns to the RIEI staff.

MENTOR COMMITMENT

Expectations of Regnier Mentors

  • Participate in at least one activity per semester
  • Attend orientation upon your acceptance into the Mentor Program
  • Lend support by attending events like E-Scholars Demo Day, First Tuesdays, etc.
  • Provide feedback to the staff of interactions with ventures and notify immediately if issues arise
  • Volunteer whenever they see a 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 engaging other mentors with your mentee when an area needs additional emphasis with the knowledge and approval from Institute staff.

Diversity and Inclusion

UMKC has a diverse student body, and mentors will work with students from various backgrounds. UMKC prohibits discrimination and values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of student participation. A student’s race, color, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, ancestry, disability, military status, or veteran status should not affect the advice and mentor relationship you provide.

MENTOR RELATIONSHIP WITH VENTURES

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 the student’s intellectual property belongs to the student. Please respect, as well, the need for strict confidentiality concerning any proprietary information revealed by student 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 pay back mentors for their effort somehow. Please don’t put your mentee in the difficult position of feeling they must accept a commercial offer to continue receiving your mentoring effort. Make clear to the entrepreneur what mentoring is 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 conflicts should be brought to the attention of program staff immediately.
  • Mentors should endeavor to ensure that ventures operate within UMKC policies, including using UMKC resources and intellectual property appropriately. Those policies are available on the UMKC website; if you are unsure about a particular issue, feel free to ask the program staff.
  • Mentors or students 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 student while the student is registered as a student at UMKC or an E-Scholar.
  • If a Student becomes aware of any financial involvement of a mentor, they must notify the Leadership of the Regnier Institute immediately.

TIPS FOR MENTORING

Keep It Focused

What you want to achieve is that when they leave the meeting, the mentee feels 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 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 improve the concept and 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 difficulty 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, 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, “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 suggested questions you can apply to almost any venture.

  • 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, geographic segment, or price point that will expand the market?

Make It Real

End with a clear path and a number of steps that outline what the student could do.