A good business mentor can have tremendous benefits for early-stage startups. All the valuable things they add to a business – advice, connections and guidance among others can be the difference between your venture succeeding and you closing shop a year after you started. These benefits are not restricted to startups alone. Even for experienced entrepreneurs, a guiding hand and words of wisdom from a more experienced person are very valuable indeed.
You may think finding a mentor would be an impossible task, but it’s not that hard, and besides the value you would get from a good mentor would be more than the effort you put into finding them anyway. Here are 5 tips to help you find a great mentor and build a relationship that will last with them.
- Know what you want: The kind of business mentor you want for your startup will depend on what you want from the relationship with them. Know what you want from your business mentor – whether it’s business advice, motivation or someone who will listen to your ideas, tell you which ones have potential and help you refine them – a sounding board if you will. When you know what you want, finding the right fit will become all that easier.
- Ask: If you have seen someone whom you think could provide the kind of mentorship you need, don’t be afraid to ask them. You may fear that they will be too busy handling a myriad other tasks to even have a proper conversations with you, but don’t let that deter you. Chances are if they’re any good, they’ll be very busy anyway. Make your pitch and hope for a positive outcome.
- Make it worth their time: Someone who puts time and genuine effort into advancing your career, making you a better entrepreneur and giving you motivation when it’s needed will like to know that their efforts are not being wasted. Make sure you put in the effort required and take the advice your business mentor will give. When you make your approach, state clearly the amount of time you want them to give you and the outcome you envision from being their protegee and “mentee”. Their time is precious so be sure to get the most you possibly can when they give it to you.
- When you get one, find another: One good business mentor, while a valuable asset to have in your corner, will oftentimes not be able to give help in all aspects of your career. The truth is that no one has all the answers, so when you get a lot of different mentors, with different skill sets, experiences and backgrounds, it will expose you to so much more in different aspects of your business and be of immense help in your entrepreneurial journey.
- Give back: While many mentors may say that they demand no payment for giving back somehow to to society – whether it’s through philanthropy, motivation or helping build another success story, but never assume this. Try to make your relationship with your mentor profitable to you both. Asking how you might give back for their help is a good way of finding out what they might need from you. Even if the reply is nothing, try to do something – no matter how small – to show gratitude. Who knows, it might just be a test of character to see how grateful you are and how you show it.
Again, having a mentor is a plus to any startup, especially in the earlier stages. A business mentor – or several of them – when leveraged properly can make you a success story faster than you working on your own ever could. Take a look around you – mentors could be all around without you realizing it. One creative director said that the best business mentor relationships are those that grow organically, as opposed to those that are sought out outside of one’s circle. You might even have a business mentor already and not realize it yet!