The Difference between an Advisor and a Mentor
What Startup Founders Should Know
Mentors are mentors and advisors are advisors. If you’re asking for advice, you probably need a mentor. If you’re looking for help with a specific issue, then you might need an advisor. The good news is that most advisors will mentor and most mentors will advise. The question is what are you looking for?
In the best of all worlds, your advisor would be your mentor and vice versa. The problem is that most of us don’t have access to the best of all worlds. Instead, we’re left with the best of some worlds and we make do with what we have.
When in doubt, ask a mentor!
You want to avoid having two people giving conflicting advice on one specific issue at a time when you can’t afford to make a mistake or waste time. For example, if one person tells you to sell now and another tells you to wait until next year before selling, who do you listen to?
In this case, it might be better to get advice from two different people who specialize in separate areas instead of having both areas covered by one person only (the advisor). You may even want someone else who doesn’t know anything about your company but is really good at knowing how to choose an advisor or mentor for your company.
On the other hand, when it comes time for mentoring on business development issues such as fundraising or sales strategy, I think it’s important that there be just one voice that has seen hundreds of companies through this process successfully.
If two people give conflicting advice on this kind of issue then it becomes more difficult to know which voice should be listened to since they both have seen success in their own right.
You could ask them how they made their decisions but chances are they both would just say “It depends…” and leave you even more confused.
As a startup founder, you have to make decisions all the time and your advisor is just one of the voices that will be weighing in on those decisions.
For me, that’s one of the most important reasons why I choose an advisor who is also a mentor. Having someone who has been through these issues before makes my job easier and helps me make better decisions when it matters most.
The main point here is that advisors and mentors can be different people for different situations but they don’t have to be. The good news is that you don’t have to be either!
You can always ask for advice from someone who may not know as much about your industry but is great at making decisions or from someone who knows a lot about your industry but isn’t as good at making decisions as they are at teaching others how to make them.
What about compensation?
If you choose an advisor who is also a mentor, then you will have to compensate them in some way. You can’t just expect someone to be your mentor for free. There are different ways to do this:
Direct compensation: If you are raising money, then you can negotiate with the investors that your advisor receives a small amount of equity in exchange for their time and advice.
Compensation after the fact: If you don’t have money to pay your advisor up front, then you can pay them in equity after the fact. This works especially well if your company has a great exit.
Consulting fees: You can always pay your advisor a consulting fee but I would caution against this as it may lead to conflicts of interest down the road if they are advising other companies on competing products or services.
There are other ways to compensate advisors but those are the most common ones. I personally prefer the first option because it gives your advisor an incentive to help you raise money and to help you make sure that the investors you choose are a good fit for your company.
It’s not always easy to find a good advisor or mentor but it’s well worth the effort. A good advisor will save you time, money, and heartache in the long run. If you have any questions about finding an advisor or mentor, please leave them in the comments.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.