How mentorship can help with blind spots

You started your company as an expert in your industry. But you can't help but have blind spots. Mentors can help identify them.

At 19 years old, AZ Nicdao can already boast of several impressive accomplishments: he and four others founded a startup last year that has smartly pivoted from a brokerage for college savings accounts to Stair Financial Technologies, which aggregates public investment data and spits it out into machine-readable formats, for use by financial institutions like hedge funds.

Nicdao founded a high-growth venture, and though he’s still a teenager, he finds his clients and customers value that he and his team are far better equipped to understand and wield effective tech than their grandparents. But not long after the company started, Nicdao discovered a blind spot: his team of engineers weren’t that great at talking to people, and that was having an adverse impact on sales.

Enter mentorship. Nicdao, also a student at Sacramento State works frequently with organizations like the Carlsen Center, which helped initiate the Mentor Sacramento project. Mentor Sacramento is a program that partners with the online business mentoring platform MicroMentor...connecting with a mentor can help entrepreneurs overcome blind spots.

“Blind spots are unconscious biases that even the most understanding of us have,” says Rita Kakati Shah, a MicroMentor volunteer mentor “That comes from ourselves, from our own upbringing. Mentors can help us take ourselves out of it, and be newly open to learning, to asking questions.”

Nicdao found a mentor, explained his problem and the two of them quickly set about solving it, with a sales script that would equip him and his team with the right words to better relate to customers. In the past year, he’s tweaked that script multiple times. It remains an invaluable tool, he says. “It took a lot of the thinking out of what we were doing, in terms of customer development,” he says.

Mentors are critical in helping founders identify and mitigate blind spots. He’s now perusing Mentor Sacramento’s website for new guidance, in search of help with ways to improve Stair’s B2B sales. “It’s super easy to use, to discern who’s an expert at what,” he says of the Mentor Sacramento platform.

Mentor Sacramento is an innovative and inclusive partnership between the City of Sacramento and MicroMentor, the online business mentoring platform that connects diverse small business owners to volunteer business mentors. Learn more.