It is important for any startup to have the proper support network in place, especially during the building and validation stage. The North Forge Startup Program provides participants with a strong cast of mentors to help them as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of a startup.
One of our very talented mentors, Geoff Besko, President and CEO of Hilltop Business Solutions Inc. took the time to answer a few questions about his role as a mentor and what it means to him.
What does being a mentor for the North Forge Startup Program entail?
It means being open-minded and making yourself available to work with startup owners, asking the right questions to challenge them and engage them in improving their business concept/model and helping them overcome challenges. There are a variety of ways to engage in being a mentor with North Forge. I have been doing one-on-one mentoring of companies as well as providing biweekly workshops to stage 1 and 2 companies under the new mentoring format, where we use the diversity of the group to help each startup improve its business model and plans.
How long have you been mentoring?
I have been providing mentoring through North Forge for three years and I have been providing business consulting and mentorship to companies for over 20 years. As well, I am the owner of a Manitoba-based management consultancy, Hilltop Business Solutions, that focuses on business transformation where we help companies transform their business models, drive innovation, and support the organizational change.
What makes you qualified to mentor new entrepreneurs?
In my case, I think my varied background including my experience as a management consultant, CEO of a startup business that we grew and sold to a multi-national company, leader in raising capital, along with my broad experience across multiple industries, has helped me be an effective mentor. However, all these things aside, the most important attribute is my ability to listen, share the owner’s passion in their business, and be able to ask the right questions to challenge the owner’s thinking to help him or her improve the business or overcome an obstacle. I think a good mentor has a diverse background and experience across multiple industries but, most importantly, can put their own ego aside, truly listen, and ask the right questions without telling the startup owner “what to do” – this is often challenging as experienced business people we can be quick to want to tell someone what we think is “the solution.”
What do you like about mentoring?
I enjoy sharing the owner’s passion for his/her idea/business and I get great satisfaction from helping them develop and grow their businesses. I also learn a tremendous amount from being a mentor including learning about different industries, challenges, and unique business models which is both very interesting and helps improve my own abilities as a mentor and business owner.