Nowadays, there are many paths to success. In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs never finished college. Phil Ruffin didn’t. He quit his job and founded the chain of Treasure Island hotels and casinos. He’s now worth $2.4 billion.
Clearly, a traditional educational path isn’t required to be a successful entrepreneur, but you still need to know what you’re doing. Finding the right people to guide you along your path in business is vital when starting out as an entrepreneur.
Why the Right Mentor Will Guide You Down the Right Path
At first, the prospect of finding a mentor may feel daunting and even unnecessary. The Information Age has tricked us into thinking we can find out anything we need to know online and never seek out advice, but mentors are more than just repositories for facts. Think of them as personal coaches who can prepare you both emotionally and mentally for the challenges of entrepreneurship.
- They hold you accountable. When someone is taking the time to guide you, it means he’s invested in you. Your successes and failures matter to your mentor. Even for the most driven entrepreneurs, a lack of motivation can be a killer in the early days of starting a business. Having someone else hold you accountable can be an excellent incentive to continue pushing yourself.
- They provide a shortcut to the information you need. There is a lot to be said for teaching yourself, but having people in your life ready to answer your questions – who know where you’re coming from – means you can get information that is most relevant to your situation faster. A mentor can act as a direct pipeline to what you need to know and accelerate your learning process.
- They can help you build your network. Building a business network of your own can be one of the most overwhelming tasks when starting out as an entrepreneur. But your mentor probably already knows a lot of other successful people and can serve as a gateway to a whole world of connections.
How to Get the Most from Your Mentor
Before finding a mentor, it’s important to know exactly what you need from the relationship and what you can provide in return. A mentor/student relationship only works if both parties have the same goals in mind and are willing to put in the time.
Know your weak spots. When I was first starting out, I knew I needed to work on my salesmanship, so I found someone who was an expert in that field. With my mentor’s help, I learned valuable skills and tactics that have stayed with me to this day. Even now, if I hit a roadblock, I’ll call him up to dissect everything together. Mentors can be an asset your whole life.
Don’t be afraid to ask. This may be obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. Asking someone to be your mentor can be intimidating, but there’s really no harm in hearing the word “no.”
Do your work. A mentor is there to guide you, not do your work for you. Try things out on your own; when you run into obstacles, that’s when your mentor is most useful. This not only shows you respect your mentor’s time, but it will also get to the heart of what you really need to know.
Be humble. Taking advice from other people can be hard. Hearing criticism is even harder. It’s important to open yourself up to self-improvement and not take criticism personally. Your mentor is there to teach you – not stroke your ego.
Good mentors won’t just teach you facts; they’ll help you develop the mindset needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. Mentors bring real-world experience to the table, and they can give you the information you need in the context of how it can help your business. You don’t necessarily need business courses or a fancy degree, but a person who’s already been there and done that can be invaluable throughout your entrepreneurial journey.
Do you have any other thoughts on mentorship?
About the Author: David Zheng (@nansida) is the co-founder and CEO of Klout Fire, a digital marketing agency that helps brands drive revenue by acquiring customers and establishing brand awareness through inbound marketing strategies. The company combines optimization techniques to build an engaged audience and create valuable content.