Branson spoke from personal experience (he credited Sir Freddie Laker with helping him succeed in the airline industry) and his words stack up: from Steve Jobs advising Mark Zuckerberg on launching Facebook, to Warren Buffett Passing words of wisdom on to Bill Gates as he evolved Microsoft, business history is filled with famous mentoring partnerships – and for good reason. According to the Federation of Small Businesses70% of small business leadership teams who receive mentorship survive five years or more, double the rate of those without a mentor.
As a platform and community manager at MMC, I’m always looking for ways to leverage our collective contacts. It made me think that those with direct experience of building a proof-of-concept business are in the best position to impart their skills to help future businesses grow. This is why we launched the MMC Peer Learning Network to allow our community of entrepreneurs to connect, develop and pass on their experience.
So what exactly is mentoring and why is it so effective?
Get a fresh take on old issues
A mentor is someone who can support your self-directed learning, listen to your ideas, give honest feedback, and provide business advice where appropriate. Because they are not directly involved in your business, they can provide constructive criticism and provide a much needed objective perspective.
Mentors can work with you as you tackle the challenges typically encountered in businesses at scale; from designing a viable business model, to fundraising and governance, to designing an organizational structure. It is especially helpful to seek out people with different perspectives who can give you a new perspective on your issues and help you see the prejudices and blind spots of the past.
Building Career-Changing Relationships
Working in large-scale businesses can present unique challenges. While the fast pace and shared ambition can build camaraderie, often you are the only one with your specific expertise, whether it’s product development or new business promotion. Having one or more mentors not only allows you to bounce ideas off someone, but also provides emotional support during the ups and downs of a startup’s life.
By teaming up with your peers, you also have the opportunity to forge real relationships across industries rather than being left on the sidelines of networking events (we’ve all been there!). By starting a peer learning network, everyone – from founders and management teams to early recruiters – can benefit from shared knowledge and relationships.
The power of peer learning
Entrepreneurs and investors know that if there is one thing that will make or break a business, it’s the team. In fact, one of the greatest strengths is recognizing when a business has a strong team, nurturing them to be successful, and helping determine the next best roles to fill in the gaps.
A revolutionary idea doesn’t automatically become a successful business unless the people behind it have what it takes to build it from scratch. Yet even the most motivated and talented people need help, especially on the difficult journey that moves a business forward.
Peer mentoring networks give their communities access to coaching and support, not only from their funders and investors, but from a wider network. Rather than creating similar matches based on professional skills, AI-based platforms are also used to assign mentors to individuals based on what they want to learn, as well as their personal characteristics.
The MMC Peer Learning Network now has nearly 300 users and is growing every day, all benefiting from each other’s past successes and failures. From marketers who needed to hone their presentation skills to product owners who wanted to share tips for meeting increased demand during COVID, individuals across the community foster new relationships, build trust and learn new skills .
We’ve even seen a few teams sharing ideas in groups like Gousto and Bloom & Wild, whose design teams have come together to work on each other’s challenges.
We learn from our mistakes and our failures as much as from our great victories. However, despite the legion of business books, most institutional knowledge is passed informally from person to person, rather than written down or shared en masse. Mentoring is a proven and trusted way to ensure that hard-earned knowledge is preserved and shared among a new generation. Basically, we believe that everyone has something to offer, as well as something to learn.
Lucci Levi is Head of Platform and Community at MMC companies.