The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ― William Arthur Ward
What do Larry Page, Steve Jobs and yours truly have in common? We’ve all received guidance from mentors. Yes, – even the famously individually-minded Apple Founder got by with a little help, advice and support from time to time. No matter whom you are, where you’ve come from, or what you have achieved, a good mentor is an invaluable asset to any entrepreneur.
A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could. Ask any successful entrepreneur and, and if they are honest about it, they will almost certainly admit to having benefited from the advice of a mentor at some point along the way.
For most start-ups, they’ll be bumps along the road and as an entrepreneur you are bound to have much strength – but also, inevitably, some gaps in your knowledge, – which is why finding a mentor, can be invaluable to your business’ success.
Whether it’s advice on your business strategy or just the benefits of a new perspective, a mentor can offer support to help with the day-to-day running of your business but also tips on how to scale-up – so finding one should be a priority!
They’ll cover the basics and push you to grow
Business mentors act as a background sounding board that you can bounce ideas and business decisions off, and who will help you to realize what you want to achieve and how to go about getting it.
Furthermore, the right mentor can assist you with the basics of running your startup, something that both experts emphasis is often missed by new companies in the excitement of launching and initially running a startup. For example, a mentor will help you realize that instead of a one year business plan, a company needs a strategy for two or three years so it plans for scalability – a good mentor will push you to do this and will help you to practically implement your plans.
A mentor is not your boss, teacher or parent
Although, a mentor will be there to guide you, the company still belongs to you and a mentor should not run it. They will not solve your business problems, they will only guide you on how to figure out your business strengths and weaknesses and how to improve.
While choosing a mentor, companies need to ensure that the relationship is an adult-to-adult one and not a parent-to-child or teacher-to-student one. This is about being confident, giving and expecting respect, and making the final call on choices for your company.
As the company’s owner , you are the one who has to make the all the decisions and the mistakes, the company is your responsibility and these mistakes are often important learning curves in becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Where to find a mentor
There are a number of different places that you can find a mentor but one way is to look at your network – many are either within or just one person outside of your group of contacts, so be resourceful. Online can also be a good resource as there are many organisations that can connect you with a mentor, even if it means reaching out to a business owner you see profiled on a site. Networking events are also often the ideal place to find someone, as many established business owners are often looking for a way to challenge them and are happy to give up their time.
However, sometimes startups may need to “work the system”, which means they may have to take small investment from an organisation/investor to get the accompanying mentorship.
Acquiring and keeping your business mentor
Construct what you want and pitch your idea – like you would for funding. If seeking mentorship, you need to know what you want to achieve in your business and what you want to get out of mentoring before approaching someone.
Furthermore, mentoring is a two way street so be mindful of what a mentor wants. A business mentor is often there as they are passionate about entrepreneurialism and want a challenge, you need to show that you value this time and that you are passionate too.
This goes further than the initial pitch, you have to remain engaged throughout your mentorship. Figure out what you want out of a session – is it general advice or something specific, follow guidance and keep your mentor as up-to-date as you would want to be. Communication is the key, so let them know about the little successes as well as the big mistakes.
Mentorship is like a good story – it has a start, middle and end
An entrepreneur needs to be aware that you need a different mentor for the different stages of your company’s growth.
The mentor that helps you structure your business idea, complete your market research, and write and implement a business plan, will probably not be the best mentor to help you scale your company, get your third round of investment and start exporting.
As a business, you must go with the mentor that will help you achieve what you want in the future and not just choose someone who can help with what you are worried about right now.