Whilst you can call on Google to answer most questions, there is nothing like the support of a real life mentor when you’re starting your own business.
Someone who has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt will be well-placed to give you invaluable advice along what is likely to be the steep learning curve of your start-up journey.
Mark Zuckerberg was inspired by his mentor Steve Jobs, Bill Gates credits businessman and investor Warren Buffet with helping him on the path to success whilst Richard Branson was mentee to British airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker. In fact, up to 80% of CEOs say they have received some form of mentorship at some point in their careers.
Putting ego aside and understanding the value of a mentor is the first step you need to take in reaping the benefits from someone else’s knowledge and experience.
So why exactly is having a mentor important for millennials starting a business?
Making mistakes is part and parcel of a new business venture. And, as everyone will be very keen to tell you, you’re likely to learn much more in the self-questioning aftermath of your mistakes than you are from uninterrupted success. A mentor can’t stop you from making mistakes. What they can do is, using their own experience of failure, help you learn from those mistakes and adapt to avoid repeating them. Their experience will help you go through this process quickly and avoid any further losses to your nascent company.
As a new business, your database of contacts probably isn’t as full to bursting as you’d like. A mentor will have a wealth of contacts – contractors, suppliers, distributors – and will be able to share parts of their network with you. This gives you a great leg up and avoids some of the trial and error aspect of new business relationships.
Finding a mentor you look up to can be truly inspiring. Here is someone who has achieved what you are setting out to do. Learning about their story of success can give you confidence in your own abilities and ideas. If they can do it, why can’t you? Your mentor can also act as your role model for business self-improvement. If your mentor’s management style or the little extras they include for clients or the way they organise their schedule are effective, you can incorporate these things into your own way of working and improve your efficiency.
Something that can really hold you and your new business back is lack of faith in your own abilities and decisions. You may spend days or weeks agonising over the pros and cons of a particular situation before finally deciding what to do. A mentor can give you reassurance that the decisions you’re making are the right ones or, if the way forward is unclear, that you will be able to deal with the consequences of your decision however positive or negative the result. This will greatly speed up your decision making process and improve your confidence across all aspects of your business.
A great mentor can be an incredible asset when starting a company. But mentors aren’t just useful during the start-up stages of your business. When it comes to a change in direction or an expansion, mentors can have lots of valuable input too. Once you’ve found a good mentor-mentee fit, make the most of the relationship. Ask questions, consider different perspectives and accept that not knowing all of the answers is a great opportunity for discovering the wisdom of others.