Gates was inspired by Buffet. Zuckerberg listened to Jobs. Winfrey was held accountable by Angelou. Mentors are one of the greatest assets a business owner can have. Entrepreneurs who have mentors tend to have better results from their business which means they stay in business longer. Do you need a mentor? I would have to say no, it’s not necessary. However why wouldn't you want one? It doesn't cost you any money…or at least it shouldn’t (never pay for a mentor because scams are out there). This person that has already “been there and done that” has basically laid down the ground work for your success. All you have to do is listen to them. Sounds like an asset I would leverage as often as possible, but maybe that’s just me.
1. THEY’VE MADE MORE MISTAKES THAN YOU’VE HAD VICTORIES
Mentors have failed. Some have even lost it all. That may be their greatest asset. When I left the banking world to start OWLS I knew how to get sales. I was not shy about asking for business. I thought I could do the same thing in education and be successful. That was not the case. I found a mentor in education and he told me that the people in this industry are different than others and weary of outsiders. He told me to attend conferences and make connections that way. He was right. A mentor’s failure allows you to avoid making the mistakes they made. That’s one less thing to worry about. Trust me you will make mistakes. But even if you go down a path they have never seen they can still give you a frame of reference and force you to think about things you didn’t. If you are successful a good mentor will not be jealous of you. As a matter of fact they will be happy that they were part of your success story. They love the fact that you took their craft and took it to the next level. A good mentor is like a proud parent in that regard.
2. THEY GIVE YOU THE KEYS TO THE CASTLE
A mentor has created years and years of contacts and relationships. A good entrepreneur knows that connections are just as good as capital for the business. Imagine that you are at a convention to get your product into a big retailer. If you brought a mentor with you chances are they know which key players to talk to. If they don't know the right person, they know how to make the connection. I have seen mentors get their mentees funding. It could be with a bank or even a venture capitalist. They can put an investor at ease because investors see that there is someone in place at the organization with a winning history, helping your venture get off the ground or grow. Some mentors have been known to invest themselves. Sometimes they want equity and sometimes they don’t. Mentors become another asset in your business that you can use to scale responsibly. They make your path to entrepreneurship exponentially easier and, more importantly, profitable.
3. THEY WILL HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE
This is where most people are turned off the most in a mentorship. A good mentor will challenge your decisions and hold your feet to the fire. You have to remember that they are not your boss and it’s definitely not their business. However a good mentor wants get your business in the right direction. They should never scold you and they should never put you down. Yet if they need to have the tough conversations with you then you have to be willing to listen. Mentees have lied to mentors about financial statements when the mentor tried to have a conversation. In this case, the business owner basically said “this is my business and I will do what I want!” The relationship was severed and the business was closed 4 months later. The mentor could have saved the business but the mentee did not want to continue the conversation. A choice between a tough conversation or a failed business? I will take a double helping of the tough conversation.
4. MENTORS INSPIRE
Mentors are your greatest cheerleaders. When you have had a bad quarter or a deal falls through they are there to pick you up and remind you that failure is a part of the process. They are there to remind you of the best parts of you and the business. I recently shared with my mentor that I have the knowledge and I know the concepts but it’s hard to get people to take me seriously due to my youth. He basically told me that I had to build scar tissue and “take my lumps”. However, he told me to look for my opportunities. If they are looking to scale, give them multiple options. If they need a new vendor find the best and most cost efficient one you can find. He told me to keep being knowledgable because that was my strength. He told me the story of how he had the exact same problem. It helped me because it kept me calm and allowed me to realize that I could be successful at my craft. His stories allow me to stay the course because they push me to move forward and to never take a day off.
OH AND ONE MORE THING…..
You go into a relationship with a mentor with the best intentions. However not all relationships are meant to last forever. You should always vet a mentor to make sure they are the right fit for you. I have seen mentorships end like bad breakups. This has lead to being black-balled in certain circles and reputations damaged. Sometimes the relationship between a mentor and mentee can simply grow apart. You should always be open and honest with one another. If something rubs you the wrong way the best course of action is to have an open dialogue with one another in a respectful manner. If you outgrow each other, a good mentor will help in the selection process of a new one. Consider it their last act of acting in the your best interest.
WHATS THE BOTTOM LINE?
A good mentorship can be the catalyst to you being a market leader. Get it wrong, and it can be a very depressing relationship. Their mistakes can be assets that allow you one less mistake you make. They can put you in position to be a market leader with their connections and insight. They will keep you on the straight and narrow so that you operate your business with the utmost integrity. They can be a key source of motivation on days you need them the most. Can you operate a business without one? Absolutely. On the other hand, if you were playing pick up basketball…and you found yourself one man short, and all of sudden a 37 year old Kobe Bryant walked in the gym, you mean to tell me you’re not picking him up? I think not! #AnOwlInYourCorner