Like it or not, most of today’s most successful entrepreneurs have all sought mentors to benefit from their advice. If you want to experience success in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to find great mentors, to listen and learn from them. A good mentor is vital for entrepreneurs of all ages and all stages of their businesses. You are never too old, clever or experienced to have a mentor.
Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook was mentored by Steve Jobs. Steve was mentored by Mike Markkula, one of Apple’s earliest investors and senior executives. The software engineer Eric Schmidt mentored Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google.
While it is exciting to do it alone and create something on your own, the reality is that you may not be experienced enough in all aspects of running a business. From not making certain business decisions to fostering certain partnerships to developing a sustainable business, a mentor can help guide you through your entrepreneurial journey. Friends and peers may share their intuitions or perceptions with you. However, when you respect the experience and wisdom of a mentor, you are more likely to accept and value his or her insights, as well as apply them faster and more effectively with greater results.
Who is a business mentor?
A business mentor is typically an experienced person and a source of wisdom, teaching and support. The mentor acts as a guide to support the growth and development of the mentee by transferring his or her knowledge, skills and experience to the mentee.
Here are 12 reasons why you need a mentor:
1 – Mentors provide information and knowledge
When you are starting out, you may have no idea what is involved in running a business, including making a business plan, budgeting, handling daily operations, making strategic decisions or running a marketing campaign. With a mentor there from the start, you tap into a wealth of knowledge that would get you up to speed faster and shorten that learning curve.
2 – The old-fashioned way still works
While more seasoned mentors may be viewed as being behind the times for not carrying iPhones and other hot gadgets, their experience outweighs this notion. Young entrepreneurs sometimes hide behind their technological devices and use quick text exchanges to correspond with people. Experienced mentors have mastered communication through relationships they have forged the old-fashioned way. Entrepreneurs need both to succeed.
3 – Mentors can spot where you need to improve
Mentors have a way of seeing faults that you wouldn’t yourself. They will always be honest and tell you exactly how it is, rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you. They do not have a personal vested interest not to tell you the truth the way they see it. You do not want someone who would tell you what you want to hear. You want to know what is lacking so that you can improve.
4 – Mentors find ways to stimulate personal and professional growth
Mentors do not attempt to create someone based on their own image. They give the opportunity for mentees to create themselves. Mentors will often pose questions for you to think about and ask you to come back with answers later. A mentor will also set various goals for you to think about and give you time to see if you can accomplish them on your own, while watching from a distance to see what you have accomplished. They will then tell you what they have observed. A mentor will also focus on character and values, which will nurture your personal growth as well as your leadership abilities.
5 – Mentors offer encouragement and help that keep you going
Oprah Winfrey stated, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” They offer moral support and cheerleading. A mentor is someone who would not let you stop and will offer encouragement and guidance that gives you hope, confidence and perseverance.
6 – Mentors are disciplinarians that create necessary boundaries you cannot set for yourselves
It is so much like tough love. Your mentor understands that being an entrepreneur can be challenging when it comes to self-motivation and self-discipline. A mentor may take the role of a parent who teaches you good work habits and provided the boundaries for you to work within. This can solidify your work ethic, sharpen your focus, and clarify your priorities.
7 – Mentors are sounding boards so you can bounce ideas off them for an opinion
When you start a business, you may have several ideas for all types of business ventures and products. You may relay them to your mentor who will help you see which ones have potential. Without this type of advice, you may pursue a business idea that has no legs.
8 – Mentors are trusted advisers
In the world of business, it can be hard to know who to trust, especially with proprietary information or intellectual property. Since a mentor is an objective third-party with no stake in any idea or venture, he or she will be happy to let you know what he or she thinks. In return, you know that your mentor will keep everything confidential rather than sell it to someone else or steal your idea.
9 – Mentors have networks beyond your experience
Of course, in business, it is important to know the right people. A seasoned mentor will have connections and a good reputation built up over years. He or she can have connections that you never could, at least in the early stages of starting your own business. Most importantly, though, a good mentor will have strong relationships with people who are already successful business leaders and can help you make the most of their networks that may lead to many opportunities. If you only network within your own circle of colleagues from your generation, you will not have access to the business leaders currently making big decisions that affect your industry.
10 – Prevent you from making the same mistakes beginners make
Starting a business is challenging enough, so if you can skip doing things the hard way, why wouldn’t you? A mentor has been there, right where you are, and has made numerous mistakes that they can now use as a basis for helping others to skip the devastating effects of not knowing. They may share stories about the mistakes they made along the way that became learning lessons to save you the pain and lost resources that come from making those mistakes.
11 – Mentors are free, which makes them priceless
Typically, a mentoring relationship will grow organically through connections within your industry and network. A mentor does not do it for the money. Instead, they are driven by the satisfaction of helping another entrepreneur, paying it forward from a similar experience they had when starting their own business.
12 – It is not a sign of weakness.
One of the biggest obstacles to finding and cultivating a good mentor relationship is the entrepreneur’s own pride. So, it is sometimes difficult to be humble enough to slow down, get a fresh perspective, and hear things we do not want to hear. Do not let your pride get in the way of your success. Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and are driven enough to succeed.
How to find a good mentor
Now you want to know how to find one. Here are some tips to finding a good mentor:
Do not reach out to strangers
Find great mentors through the inspiring people you are already interacting and working with now. They need to be people to whom you have already demonstrated your potential, who know how you think, act, communicate and contribute. They have to like, trust and believe in you already (why else would they help you for free?) They also need to believe with absolutely certainty that you will put to great use all their input and feedback.
Get on the radar of strangers whom you admire
Do not ask for mentorship, but follow their work. Tweet out their posts, comment in a positive way on their blogs, share their updates, start a discussion on LinkedIn commenting and sharing their post, refer new clients or business to them, and the list goes on. In short, build a relationship first, then ask for mentorship.
Be enjoyable to mentor
Are you somebody you yourself would like to mentor? Are you open, flexible, resilient, respectful? Are you eager to learn, and committed to modifying how you are interacting in the world so you can have even more success?
Put yourself in a potential mentor’s shoes
If the tables were turned, what would you want to see from this individual asking for help? if you were flooded with requests for help every day, what type of person would you choose to assist, and why? Go out and become that person that others would love to support and nurture.
Do not settle with one mentor
You stand to receive the greatest benefits if you have multiple mentors. some people will have different mentors at different points in their businesses, each making a unique contribution. others, however, actively seek the support of more than one mentor at the same point in time.
Here are some benefits of having multiple mentors:
You will get several different points of view, especially for critical decisions.
You will have an increased likelihood that at least one mentor has faced a similar situation.
You need mentors that have different areas of expertise for different development needs (one for vision and strategy, one for operational challenges, one for financial issues, etc.)
You will have a higher probability that at least one will be available to talk at a critical time.
Your chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentor. The valuable connections, timely advice, occasional checks, together with the spiritual and moral guidance you will gain from having a mentor, will literarily leapfrog you to success. They will not have all the answers, but if you allow mentors to bolster your experience with theirs, you will be able to operate with more confidence than you otherwise would on your own.