Infobase Ventures Mentoring Services

Yesterday I met with another passionate entrepreneur trying to get her business off the ground. With more than 500 daily readers of my blog, and with my other writing and speaking opportunities, I am getting more requests for mentoring from entrepreneurs than I can handle.

So I’m raising the bar.

One of my friends raised the bar by charging a high monthly retainer if someone really wants his help. That way, he gets paid for his time, and the entrepreneur really listens to his advice–because it’s not free.

I don’t want to charge for my services (yet), because I hate taking money from entrepreneurs who don’t have any, so here’s how I’m going to raise the bar:

Before I take time to meet with you in person or on the phone to discuss your business idea, here is what I require:

  • You must be using LinkedIn.com and have at least 10 connections and 2 endorsements. That way there is a good chance that I will know someone who knows you. It will be easier for us to gain mutual trust this way.
  • If you have a management team or key employees, each of them must be on LinkedIn.com with at least 5 connections.
  • You must have an advisory board of 3 or more successful business people (preferrably 6-10) who believe in you and are willing to meet with you monthly or bi-monthly to dispense advice and help you with your challenges.
  • If your company is at revenue stage, you must be using Quickbooks Online Edition so that I can review your financials with you as needed. This costs only $19.95 per month and gives 3 users access to your data. I need to see the real picture and not just hear about the big ideas.
  • I need to see a simple cap table (showing the ownership of your company, including options and warrants)
  • You must know your company’s SIC code and have a list of any publicly traded competitors that you might have. I want you to be familiar with SEC reports and gaining competitive intelligence. Too often entrepreneurs have an idea, think they are the only one doing it, and they are unaware that there are large well-funded competitiors doing the same thing. This doesn’t mean you can’t succeed by being faster and smarter than the larger company (in business, often large=slow), but I don’t want you to be unaware of your competition.
  • If you do have publicly traded competitors, you must have a My Yahoo portfolio listing all their stock symbols, so you can stay current with their news and financial status.
  • For your privately held competitors, I need to know the Alexa rankings of their web sites and how many employees they have. (The best way to get this info is to download the Alexa toolbar.)
  • You must have set up Google Alerts so that whenever any of your competitors are in the news, you will hear about it and know what they are all up to. I want to see a complete list of your Google Alerts keywords.
  • Finally: don’t dare ask me for advice or help if you haven’t read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. I think it’s the best book ever written on startups. I expect you to have marked up every passage that struck you as important, and I expect you to have followed his formula for startups, including the MAT approach, the 10/20/30 rule for Powerpoints, and the bottoms-up business model and forecast.
  • I don’t need to read a business plan, but if you have a 1-2 page executive summary that’s okay, but certainly not required.

Okay, I got that off my chest. I really, really, really like helping energetic entrepreneurs, young or old, that are willing to learn constantly, and will not give up until their dream comes true. But before you ask me for personal time, please take these 10 steps, and then let’s talk.

9 Comments

  1. Very interesting post. What grabbed me most was the use of very *specific* examples of how the entrepreneur needs to have a grasp of things like instant financials (e.g., via online edition of Quickbooks – which is relatively new relative to the client side software), competitive information (e.g., via 10-Ks), etc. Most information I have seen or heard dispensed on the subject prior to this post has been more general (thus requiring the reader to know more about what you are talking about, have done it before, or have an MBA, say).

    -Steve

  2. Micheal Green

    I took up the advice on bullet one, and joined the http://www.linkedin.com network. I found this to be a very useful tool and one that I will try to use in upcoming months. My only complaint is that I am located in Southern Utah, and yes it is closer to Las Vegas than SLC, but when it comes to market research and making solid business contacts, I would say that St. George should be grouped with the SLC region rather than Las Vegas. Other than that I would certainly endorse this product!

    Thanks for the tools Paul!

    -Micheal Green

  3. Aren’t you afraid that having such a formal list of rules will drive away those entrepreneurs who are stubborn, creative, and unaccustomed to following rules? I.e., the ones who might succeed?

  4. Hello Paul,
    Have you come across my site where I am putting together a community of 5 mentors and 15 startup microISV software entrepreneurs?
    http://www.qwikpage.com
    Please take a look at http://www.qwikpage.com/microisv/mentorOpportunity.htm
    and
    http://www.qwikpage.com/microisv/microisvopportunity.htm
    to learn more about it.
    This would be a great place for you to gain exposure as an experienced software entrepreneur with valuable advice.
    I could really use your advice even for getting this mentor/student concept of mine off the ground.
    Please feel free to contact me directly at drb@qwikpage.com.
    Sincerely
    David Richard Brooks

  5. > Aren’t you afraid that having such a formal list of rules
    > will drive away those entrepreneurs who are stubborn, creative,
    > and unaccustomed to following rules?
    > I.e., the ones who might succeed?
    > Shimon Rura

  6. What is a good way to find out how many employees are at a company, especially if it’s a small business? I tried Alexa and Google, but no luck so far 🙁

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