It's Not What You Know - It's Who You Know

December 2017 — #Class of 2018, #Rob Smith

It's Not What You Know - It's Who You Know

It’s a well-known fact that knowing the right people and having the right connections can be very important, not just at a personal level but also for creating a business. Whether it’s to meet investors, gain influential partners, expand the team, gain new clients or to increase brand exposure, there are many reasons why network expansion is such a valuable proposition.

One of the defining strengths of SLP is their help in creating such a network. This session was designed to help each fellow increase their network size by matching them with one or multiple mentors.

Preparation and setup of the class

The idea of the class was that the mentors would sit down whilst the SLP fellows rotate between them. However, unlike with real life speed dating, there was no scoring system and it was left to both the mentors and the SLP fellows to contact each other afterwards (all fellows have or are planning to follow up with mentors). The session was designed so that on rotation each mentor number was incremented by one and each SLP fellow’s letter would also increase by one. This was done so that for both, the mentor and mentee, it should be easy to know who was seeing who next. The rooms were also set out in a clockwise fashion with the mentees rotating clockwise throughout the Shoosmith’s office.

Wen and Steven had prepared the initial contact list of mentors who had already been sent an initial contact email and many had already responded. A backup list was prepared for non-responders and dropouts.

The main preparation, aside from confirming mentors and mentees who would attend, was the creation of the brochure. For brochure creation I used and I was pleased with the quality and style of the finished print.

What happened on the day?

The optimal (and most ideal situation) would be equal mentors and mentees attending. My original estimate, based on my own empirical experience, was that as many as 10% could drop out. As there were 36 people due to attend, we expected ~3.6 to not turn up. Quite a bit of effort went into trying to ensure that if this did happen, it wouldn’t adversarially impact the session. To make matters more difficult I had already assigned numbers to people in the brochure and given the letters to each mentee. In the end, some of the mentors had to dropout due to personal reasons at the last moment as is expected with large groups of people. Luckily we had some last minute replacements who were able to fill their shoes and took their allocated numbers.

As the class CEO, during the event, I found it difficult to organise and run the session whilst simultaneously sitting down and talking with each mentor. Luckily, Wen armed with his trusty bell did a great job of running the session whilst I was conversing.

Overall, I found the session really interesting and a great opportunity to talk to with some established entrepreneurs. However, I felt that 3 mins was far too short a time to fully connect with each mentor.

Retrospective – what did we learn? And feedback

Overall, similarly to the business fair, I felt that it was a good opportunity to practice my pitch and to get feedback. I agreed with the majority of the class feedback that the time period of 3 mins was too short. My personal view is that targeted mentors for each candidate might have worked better. Although this would have required more preparation time but this would have likely resulted in a more diverse selection of mentor candidates.

Message to the Class of 2018

My advice to the class CEO of 2019 is that it is important to keep diversity in mind when getting the list of mentors. It’s also important to prepare for people not to turn up. Don’t assign numbers and letters until the event.