How to Become a Mentor
MERLIN mentors are recruited for their expertise in business formation and funding, strategic planning, organizational management, and specific technical fields as well as for their skills as advisors and enthusiasm for the mentoring service program. Commonly, new mentors are recommended by existing mentors.
MERLIN mentors are required to follow certain guidelines, including confidentiality and conflict of interest. In addition, there are criteria that must be met to become a MERLIN mentor.
What is the time commitment for the mentor?
When the mentor/entrepreneur relationship is formed, the entrepreneur and mentor team make a mutual decision on the frequency of meetings and the optimal format. Since each venture is unique, the nature, extent and time frame of the MERLIN mentoring process is largely determined on a case-by-case basis. In general, MERLIN sees the mentoring process as an ongoing educational relationship, requiring a minimum of the equivalent of one day per month.
The Responsibility of the Mentor
A volunteer director and a steering committee plans and supervises the mentoring services. A review committee and a governing committee provide operational oversight and general direction. MERLIN mentors are responsible for abiding by, and reporting issues involving the policies, rules and directives of the organization.
Mentors must be in a position to provide completely unbiased advice. Therefore mentors will not be permitted to have any direct or indirect financial or business relationship with a MERLIN entrepreneur that they are mentoring that could result in a real or perceived conflict of interest.
As such, mentors shall not solicit any financial arrangements for themselves or a related party from an entrepreneur that they are currently involved with in a MERLIN project. If an entrepreneur approaches a MERLIN mentor with an offer to either become an employee, consultant, or investor in that entrepreneur’s company, and the mentor is interested in pursuing such a business or financial relationship with the entrepreneur, the mentor shall immediately inform the MERLIN Program Director about the offer and step down from the mentor team to eliminate any conflict of interest. In such a case, MERLIN will offer to arrange an alternative mentor match.
In addition, if a mentor is interested in potentially becoming a paid employee, consultant or investor with an entrepreneur that they are mentoring, the mentor should immediately inform the MERLIN Program Director of such an interest and step down from the mentor team to eliminate any conflict of interest. Such notification and withdrawal shall happen prior to the mentor approaching the entrepreneur about a possible financial or business relationship with the entrepreneur.
Last, if a mentor wants to approach an entrepreneur that they are not mentoring about the possibility of becoming an employee, consultant, or investor, that mentor shall make it explicit that they are not approaching the entrepreneur as part of MERLIN, but rather as an individual outside the scope of his or her role within MERLIN.
Below are some examples of potential conflicts of interest. These examples are merely illustrative and are not intended to be exhaustive of all the potential conflicts of interests that could arise.
– A mentor is invited by an entrepreneur that they are mentoring to invest in his or her business, pay for certain services, or otherwise bring money into the relationship. If the mentor is interested in pursuing a financial or business arrangement with the entrepreneur, the mentor should immediately inform the MERLIN Program Director about his or her interest in entering into a financial or business arrangement with the entrepreneur and withdraw from the mentor team. Such a financial arrangement changes the mentoring relationship and potentially impedes the mentor’s ability to provide neutral and objective advice.
– A mentor is interested in becoming a paid employee or consultant for an entrepreneur that he or she is mentoring. In order for the entrepreneur to have the trust that they are receiving completely unbiased advice, that mentor should immediately inform the MERLIN Program Director about his or her interest of pursuing such a business relationship with the entrepreneur and withdraw from the mentor team, prior to approaching the entrepreneur about the possibility of becoming a paid employee or consultant.
– A mentor hears a presentation from an entrepreneur at a monthly meeting and would like to approach that entrepreneur about being hired as an employee or paid consultant. Even though the mentor is not on the entrepreneur’s mentor team, the mentor must make it explicit that they are not approaching the entrepreneur as part of MERLIN, but rather in his or her individual capacity, in order to avoid any confusion and/or appearance that MERLIN is promoting certain individuals to be hired by the entrepreneur.