What I learnt from Mentors: Entrepreneurs Speak
The entrepreneurship road is a long and lonely one and extremely difficult as well. Having a mentor to guide and support you helps tremendously. We spoke with a few women entrepreneurs about some of the things they have learnt from their mentors.
“I have had some wonderful mentors at different stages of my life. Some of the most valuable lessons that I learnt from my mentors during my journey till now are- recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others for it always helps in the long run, don’t be afraid of asking questions as it gives you better clarity to effectively manage things, be generous and appreciate each other and people who work with/for you and work hard and party harder,” says entrepreneur, Sonal Gupta, Co-founder, Navrang.
Lessons to remember, here are some of them:
Remember, the popular story from the Mahabharata about Arjuna and his brothers (The Pandavas) being trained by archery master Dronacharya. The brothers had been instructed to aim at the fish’s eye while looking at its reflection in the water below while the fish was hanging from the tree.
Unlike all his brothers Arjuna when asked by Dronacharya what he could see, without hesitation Arjuna responded that he could see only the eye of the fish. Dronacharya upon hearing this response allowed him to shoot. Arjuna hit the bull’s eye.
It is important to not lose focus of your goal. Remember, a true mentor will tell you that the goal is your primary prize.
“Focus on what you are passionate about and execute it ruthlessly. Its better to jump into the ring once you have a strong mind than to keep strategising in the locker room,” says Nehal Modi, Founder of Yellow Bulbs, about the primary learning she received from her mentor.
The CEO of Design ‘N’ Buy, Nidhi Agarwal shares her experience and says, “One thing I have learnt from my mentor is to stay focused and set measurable targets. Also he helped me to understand the importance of continuous business analysis to understand how business is doing and what are prospects to grow.”
Know your business and know your people
In the book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, a very important point is made —
Leaders have to live their businesses. In companies that don’t execute, the leaders are usually out of touch with the day-to-day realities. They are getting lots and lots of information delivered to them, but its filtered – presented by direct reports with their own perceptions, limitations and agendas, or gathered by staff people with their own perspectives. The leaders aren’t where the action is. They aren’t engaged with the business, so they don’t know their organization’s comprehensively. And their people don’t really know them.
This is a very important lesson. Rakhi Chawla, the founder and CEO of Ed3D says,
The most important thing I have learnt from my mentors is the importance of research. Like they used to tell us in school, do your homework and the rest will take care of itself. Market evaluation, current trends, assessing strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis competitors — all of this is valuable research that helps one tweak a product or service to perfection. The other thing is a crystal clear analysis and understanding of the financials involved. These two factors strongly influence impact at the initial stages of any business.
Nidhi Agarwal, says, “Detailed analysis also helps in getting early indicators of problem areas in the business so that a remedial measure can be taken before it goes out of hand.”
“My mentors have always stressed upon putting client first in all situations and the importance of building a strong, employee owned, transparent work culture along side. This made me realize the importance of team effort, taking care of the employees, since they are the one’s who will further take care of the clients. Respecting individual potential, giving them freedom to experiment and being a partner to their growth, coming from the wisdom we had from our experiences and mentors helped us in building a winning workforce at Kays Harbor, says the Founder, Manisha Kathooria.
There is no short cut to success
Success is not an overnight phenomenon. It is a long road paved with patience, perseverance and dogged determination that leads to success.
“I have learnt to be patient, hardworking and persevere no matter what obstacles come my way and never give up because I have found what I love,” says Sakhshi Mahajan of The Portret Project.
“We live in the world where instant gratification is the norm, however everything (especially in business) is not over night. Results cannot be expected over night. I have learned to be patient and to follow my gut with a laser sharp focus. It is probably the most important thing I have learned from my mentor — ‘patience,’ says Ankita Tandon, COO of CouponDuniya.
As an entrepreneur you need to be flexible. You need to be nimble and be able to change tact according to market dynamics, competitive pressures, competitor initiatives and investor pressure. You cannot go in with a fixed mindset or rely on a single strategy. Though the over arching goal might be one your approach to achieving it will be governed by these forces.
It is not about one lesson but the overall inputs that a mentor brings to the table and Ankita Shroff, the Founder of SAV Chemicals, lists the lessons she learnt from her mentors –
The tact of taking the right decision at the right time, getting the right people and building a strong team, how to self improve, never repeat mistakes, constantly work towards achieving your goal, be a risk taker and one has to Jump in the well to achieve something and never procrastinate.
Great mentors not only act as guides, sounding boards and advisors, they also help you stay grounded. But finding a great mentor is not easy so one piece of advice most women entrepreneurs give is that –
Hold on to the good mentors, as they are not easy to find.