By David Strom, ITEN Mentor
Every second Thursday of the month, two ITEN mentors offer up their time for anyone, under a program called office hours. Entrepreneurs sign up for 20-minute slots, and can ask whatever they want. Having just gone through the experience, I have a few suggestions on how to make things work better at both ends.
First, before you (as the mentor) volunteer your time, make sure your mentor profile is current on the ITEN website. You want startups to come to your credentials based on accurate information. Look at the mentor match form that they have to fill out and pick the categories that are most relevant to your experience.
Second, make sure you have the right dates. I thought I was doing myself a favor by emailing entrepreneurs that I have met over the past about my office hours: sadly, I gave them the wrong date. Oops.
Next, for startups, show up on time or a bit early for your session. Bring whatever materials you want to discuss with your chosen mentor. Remember, time is short so try to make a connection with the mentor and build a foundation that you can use to come back for further advice outside the office hours context. You don’t need to give an entire pitch or a long history of your venture: just hit the highlights. Let the conversation flow naturally and find areas of mutual interest and benefit. Often I have found out things about the venture or the entrepreneur that neither of us expected. Look to get connected to other people in St. Louis that the mentor knows who can help you grow your business or resolve a particular situation that is troubling you now.
About David Strom
David Strom is one of the leading experts on network and Internet technologies and has written and spoken extensively on topics such as VOIP, convergence, email, cloud computing, network management, Internet applications, wireless and Web services for more than 25 years. He has had several editorial management positions for both print and online properties in the enthusiast, gaming, IT, network, channel, and electronics industries, including the editor-in-chief of Network Computing print, Digital Landing.com, and Tom’s Hardware.com. He currently writes for Dice, Techtarget’s SearchSecurity.com, ITworld.com and Network World.