Meet the Mentors


Jana Kemp

By Norris Krueger, PhD

Photos Kimberlee Miller

I met Jana ages ago when I was still doing project-based learning at Boise State. She was active in growing the community and I’d told her of the wonderful work that my students could do. Weeks later, I walked by her downtown, minding my own business when she asked if I was still doing projects. I said yes. She said something like “Great. See you at 7 pm Thursday at X.” And that’s how I got involved with the Idaho Film Industry Task Force. (And my first meeting I end up sitting between Karen McGee and Dawn Wells. Gulp.) What a delightful community. And what a delightful “git ‘r done” person for Idaho.

We next crossed paths when she ran for Governor. Not a quixotic gesture, not an exercise in ego, but a carefully-strategized effort to shed a spotlight on issues critical to growing Idaho (and entrepreneurs!) that remain critical [read on!]

Jana Kemp’s work spans two decades and a dozen countries, and considerable media coverage. Her Meeting & Management Essentials is truly a hidden gem:

Jana always gives marvelous advice and might be the best discussion facilitator I’ve seen – the kind of facilitator who you never notice facilitating. I was so excited that she agreed to this!

What makes a good mentor? Bad mentor?

A good mentor (or coach) is someone who understands you, your business, goals, and values. Encourages you to grow, to acquire more knowledge and skills than you currently have. A good mentor helps you become the best version of yourself – at work and at home –   that you can be. Conversely, a “bad mentor” doesn’t listen to you and doesn’t help your quest.

What should I know/ask/do to see whether a mentor is a good match for me?

Finding a best-match mentor starts with watching who other people are, how they do business, and how they conduct themselves around others. If you like what you see in daily action and believe that you can learn something from this person, then approach them to ask whether being a mentor is something they might be willing to do for you.

People I admire for what they get done may not do business in ways that resonates with me and my values: I wouldn’t ask them to be my mentor. The people I both admire and feel like I could learn from while also enjoying them and their insights? There’s your likely match for mentoring.

Once you’ve identified a potential mentor, ask to meet in person to explore a connection. Is the person able and willing (time, attitude, communication skills)? Whether the answer is “yes” or “no”, be sure to send the person you’ve met with a hand-written, put in the mail, thank-you note.

What do mentees really need to know and do?

Listen and learn. If you are not at a place in your life in which you can respectfully listen, learn, and reciprocate with information and idea sharing, don’t seek out a mentor. Mentoring is a two-way street, where both mentor and mentee equally benefit from the experience.

How can good mentoring experiences grow in Boise/Idaho?

Karen Meyer wrote an op-ed piece for an Idaho newspaper a while back that says it well: no matter where you grew up, where you’ve traveled to, and why you live in Idaho – Listen to the ideas of others and implement some of those ideas while sharing credit for the source of the ideas. Without listening and exploring possibilities, mentoring does not happen. Karen and many others over the last 25 years have created structures for mentoring (think Trailhead). Idaho has many potential vehicles to support mentoring – participate in them!

What is one thing that each of us can do to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Idaho needs more than “one thing” to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Idaho needs entrepreneurial leadership in government, private, and economic development sectors. What does this need to look like? Vision and action for supporting the brainpower and talents that exist statewide. Supports needed include: an understanding that Idaho’s economy cannot sustain itself on government, non-profit, and service-sector jobs; championing our Idaho-grown for-profit businesses here and nationwide; venture capital that supports the growth of start-up, early-stage, and growth companies; helping people differentiate between the “need for a non-profit” and the possibilities for growing a for-profit enterprise; and recognition that profit-generating ideas can come from everyone at any age, and from any background.

That last paragraph is telling, isn’t it? Please read it again (and not just because it confirms all my own biases!) Pretty cool that we have such great mentors in our midst and, as Jana says… so USE them!

Jana Kemp: ; 208-367-1701