“One good mentor can be more informative than a college education and more valuable than a decade’s income.” – Sean Stephenson
When building a startup company, there are tons of things that need to happen to ensure success. You have to write a business plan, make your company a legal entity, open a bank account, hire an accountant, hire a lawyer…and the list goes on and on.
As we began to really get serious about building our company Intrinsic Events, my business partner and I quickly realized that after we did all of the above, we were missing a critical element that goes into building a successful business. Finding a great business mentor.
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
Jes and I always thought that our business plan had to absolutely perfect and that we needed all of the “business” things taken care of before we could have someone else look really look at our plan and provide feedback.
We learned that wasn’t the case. Your business plan encompasses your ideas and thoughts surrounding where you want your company to go. A business mentor will help you refine that plan to its full potential.
MAKE AN IMPACT
Business mentors have a huge impact on startup companies, especially in the beginning stages of development. An ideal business mentor has already gone through the process of starting, building and running a successful company and will be a huge asset to you and your business. The opportunity to work with a mentor should be taken advantage of earlier rather than later.
A good business mentor will challenge you to think harder and admit mistakes or a wrong direction before it hinders growth. They aren’t going to be worried about hurting your feelings with their feedback. They’re going to be more concerned with how you’re going to succeed and what steps need to be taken to get you there.
HOW TO FIND A GREAT MENTOR
Finding a great mentor for your business is going to take some thought and effort. It’s important to recognize what makes a great mentor, how to approach one, and how to get the most out that relationship.
There are going to be many people to consider for this very important position in your business, so take your time, do your research, and carefully select someone you truly look up to.
When Jes and I were going through the process of selecting a business mentor, these were some steps we took during our the process that may he hope is helpful to you…
1. UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES A GREAT BUSINESS MENTOR
A great business mentor is typically someone who has already been in your shoes. They can relate to what you are going through and have seen success in their professional lives.
The best mentors ask difficult questions and challenge you to exceed your goals. They’ll typically share their own entrepreneurial experiences and will help you uncover new opportunities in your business.
Great mentors won’t tell you exactly what to do with your business, but instead will give you suggestions and guidance. They understand it's your company to run, not theirs but are willing to put their time and effort into your growth.
2. FIND SOMEONE YOU LIKE, TRUST, AND ADMIRE
When looking for a business mentor, we took the approach of examining our current connections and pinpointed Founders and CEOs of companies we liked, trusted and admired.
It’s important to believe in what your potential mentor does with their own business, in order to trust them with advising you on yours. As entrepreneurs we have the freedom to select who we work with and for. Be sure to take this into considerations when narrowing down the perfect business mentor.
3. SHOP AROUND AND CHOOSE WISELY
I was once told by a successful entrepreneur in Baltimore that it was so important as a founder to have one primary business mentor, not 10. Having a bunch of people you look up to professionally is awesome, but having one person to consistently go to while you ride the crazy roller coaster of building a startup is imperative.
Narrow it down to three candidates if you can. Really examine what they have all done in their professional lives and whom you think your business would most benefit from. Don’t make any rash decisions. This individual is hopefully going to be in your life for a while.
4. MAXIMIZE THE RELATIONSHIP
YAY! So you found the perfect business mentor, now what?
It’s important to make time to meet with he or she on a regular basis, run ideas by them, and ask for advice. A successful mentoring relationship should be a filled with structured and proactive conversations. Work with your mentor on putting together agendas for your meetings and establishing weekly/monthly goals so it’s the best use of everyone’s time.
Great business mentors love to see progress in their mentee’s businesses and take pride in knowing that their advice has made an impact. We like to send monthly emails that remind our mentor of past conversations and updates on our company’s progress. Consistent communication between you and your mentor is a good thing.
PAY IT FORWARD
Great founders instinctively understand the importance and role of mentors. They recognize that building a business is extremely difficult. They also realize that when an entrepreneur is paired with an experienced and engaged mentor it can make an enormous difference. This is often a strong indicator of future success.
So when that day comes when you are a successful founder running your large company, consider becoming a business mentor of a budding entrepreneur yourself. After all, behind every great entrepreneur is a great mentor.