The idea that entrepreneurship is a one-man show is among the biggest myths about it. We frequently recount tales of brilliant individuals starting profitable businesses in their garages. We enjoy reading about CEOs who, by the strength of their personalities and the clarity of their corporate vision, raised themselves up by their bootstraps to become millionaires. We don't hear enough about the powerful figures who worked behind the scenes and provided the renowned entrepreneurs with timely guidance and assistance.
A fledgling business needs mentors to be successful. An effective mentor is a seasoned businessperson who has successfully navigated the tricky waters of starting and maintaining a successful business, including everything from seeking investors to developing a marketing strategy to going public. Success is not the only requirement for a successful mentor, though. A mentor must have a burning desire to impart his or her acquired knowledge and to support the professional world.
Finding the ideal business mentor takes time, and that's how it should be. Consider it similar to dating You shouldn't accept the first six-figure, silver-haired executive that you meet. You must locate a seasoned, reliable person who is willing to put time and effort into your accomplishment. Both parties must benefit from the mentoring relationship for that to take place. You receive wise counsel, and your mentor enjoys helping to develop the next generation of business leaders.
A excellent mentor is friendlier than a paid life coach but more professional than a buddy. Quality mentors obviously don't grow on magical retired executive trees. Before you discover the right match, you'll need to use your network and kiss a lot of metaphorical frogs in suits. In this article, you may learn more about selecting a business mentor.
How Do I Choose My Mentor?
Getting out there and networking is the best method to locate a business mentor. Search the online alumni directory at your alma mater or through your contacts on LinkedIn to start. If you already share friends, coworkers, or colleges, your chances of forging a meaningful relationship increase. The greatest mentors are local, so think about joining the Entrepreneurs' Organization, Toastmasters International, or Rotary Club chapter in your area. Attend some meetings, make a list of potential hires, and then start inviting folks out for coffee or lunch.
National small business organizations are also available to assist in establishing connections between entrepreneurs and resources and mentors. Start with the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Women Business Owners. A website called SCORE.org, which connects small business owners with online mentors, is partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration. You can look for offline mentoring relationships at regional SCORE offices spread out around the nation.
What qualities ought to a potential business mentor possess? First and foremost, your mentor ought to have knowledge of your particular business scenario. Find someone who has successfully funded and established a profitable start-up if you're seeking to raise venture money for a tech start-up. The fact that your mentor has accomplished your goals and been to your desired destinations is crucial. If not, you can get a lot of sound general business advise but nothing that you can use right away.
Second, your mentor ought to be connected to a wide range of businesspeople. One of the biggest advantages of having a mentor is having immediate access to their network of knowledgeable investors, reliable vendors, and possible partners. Because of this, a business mentor need not be an elderly person. The most important consideration is how long they have worked in your industry. Third, you should feel that your mentor cares about you.
Someone who has a strong emotional and intellectual stake in your achievement should serve as your mentor. Your mentor will be more devoted to holding regular meetings, providing feedback, and networking on your behalf if they genuinely care about your achievement. Of course, honesty is a key component of caring. The ideal tutor won't be concerned with offending you. Your mentor should be honest with you, pointing out both the good and the bad aspects of your company plan. Let's now examine the mentoring relationship's negative side. Do you consider yourself to be competent and experienced enough to serve as your own mentor?
Becoming A Mentor Yourself
You put a lot of effort into your achievement. You've been working 70-hour weeks and maxing out credit cards for years, and now you're starting to reap the rewards. Customers are content, profits are up, and for once, investors are knocking on your door. You can consider the events that led to your arrival now that you have some free time. Perhaps you encountered some powerful individuals along the way who provided you with crucial advice and opened doors to useful business relationships. Wouldn't it be satisfying to have the same impact on the next generation of business leaders?
You must first identify some possible mentees. Make it known that you are available if local entrepreneurs haven't already contacted you. Ask if there are any established mentorship programs in your area by getting in touch with local schools and universities [source: Misner]. You should indicate in your LinkedIn profile that you are interested in mentoring possibilities. Join the Rotary Club or another business organization in your area to meet young individuals who could be seeking for an ally with your level of experience.
Trust and shared interests are the foundation of a successful mentorship. This won't take place immediately. Spend some time learning about your mentee's business objectives. Make yourself accessible through regularly planned sessions once you have a strong understanding of your mentee's objectives, skills, and weaknesses. Prepare yourself to serve as a sounding board for fresh concepts and a confidante through challenging times. Promote your protégé's ideas to possible investors or introduce him or her to members of your professional network as an active advocate for your mentee. You have the ability to let your mentee through doors they had no idea existed.
Essential Questions You Need To Ask A Mentor
If you ask the correct questions, a business mentor may be a wonderful resource for a budding entrepreneur. Being specific is the key to getting the finest advise from a business mentor because they are extremely busy and facing their own set of important business issues. They agreed to be your mentor because they want to support you, but they can't make all of your decisions. Instead, they can provide a knowledgeable viewpoint on present problems and future strategies.
Depending on where you are in your career, you may ask your mentor different questions. You might ask your mentor for a sample of her business plan if you're just getting started and need one to utilize as a template. Your mentor will find it simple to share that information with you, and you will value it greatly as a practical resource. Ask your mentor to read your plan after it has been written. Don't anticipate a line-by-line analysis, but urge the person to point out any areas that want improvement or to offer alternate suggestions.
Ask your mentor for some recommendations of connections in his or her network if you already have a company plan and are seeking for potential investors. If your mentor has a strong belief in your company, ask him or her to personally contact a few investors to establish contact before letting you follow up to present your pitch. Once more, the mentor is providing a service that would have been very challenging for you to complete on your own. You'll reach a fork in the road at various points as your firm grows. Making the wrong decision could cost you money. Consult your mentor first before you spend money on expensive equipment, add new partners, or make any other significant decisions. Ask the person what they would do in the circumstance. If you haven't thought of any hazards or advantages, ask about them.
Finally, keep in mind that a mentoring relationship shouldn't be a one-way street and always ask, "How can I help you?" Even though you are fresh to the industry, you still have something to offer. Perhaps you have a specialty that would be useful to an older professional, such as Web design, social networking, or lawn care. Offer a specific deal. Even little things like, "Hey, would you like me to develop a Facebook profile for your company?" will assist maintain the equilibrium in the connection.
What's In It For Me?
A close mentorship relationship is like having a big brother at work for a young entrepreneur. The big brother is more powerful than the bullies, has a wide circle of acquaintances, and is familiar with the rules. The advantages of having a seasoned, committed business mentor on your team are endless. A handful of the highlights are listed here. First of all, you'll have access to that person's vast network of contacts if you can locate an experienced mentor in your profession. Even with the advent of social networking websites like LinkedIn, creating a strong professional network remains one of the most challenging aspects of starting a new business. The mentor knows who to call if you're seeking for a vendor, supplier, or investor. And unlike you, he'll actually get a call back. That is invaluable.
Mistakes are a great way to learn, but some are so expensive and time-consuming that it's best to let someone else do the "learning" for you. If you can build a trustworthy and mutually beneficial mentor relationship, your mentor will not only share his or her Rolodex, but also a long and valuable list of "lessons learned." A good mentor will assist you in avoiding the largest mistakes by reviewing your business plan and keeping track of your important upcoming decisions. In reality, a good mentor relationship involves informal schooling.
While an MBA program can teach you a lot, some concepts are best learned through actual work experience. A small-town businessman called Kent Sutherland wrote about his special mentorship relationship with billionaire and founder of Wal-Mart Sam Walton in an Inc. magazine article from 2000. As a 23-year-old salesman for a large supplier of healthcare items, Sutherland first met Walton. Sutherland never had a job at Wal-Mart, but CEO Walton took the young guy under his wings. When Sutherland discusses the advantages of the partnership, he treasures the pearls of common sense advice, such as "always diversify," that allowed him to create a modest fortune in less glamorous industries like insurance, self-storage, and mortgage brokerages.