What do top business executives, acclaimed five-star chefs, and Grammy-award-winning musicians have in common? For one, their achievements didn’t happen overnight. The level of success they achieved was obtained gradually through a complex web of time, effort, and determination. But there is another piece: more than likely, these celebrated individuals didn’t become successful on their own.
Oftentimes, the most successful individuals are the ones who have enlisted the guidance of a mentor. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, when a person meets another individual who unexpectedly bestows a major influence on their life and career path. Other times, people will consciously seek out a mentor who is the right fit for them. Whatever the case, the fact remains the same: a mentor helps individuals discover their true potential, assists in molding the shape of their future vision, and provides practical guidance on how to make that vision a reality.
Why should you, as an entrepreneur, consider seeking out a mentor?
Brittany Lorenzi, founder of BluePrint Strategy and Collaborate, a coworking community in Nashville, regularly gives her time to mentoring entrepreneurs and business owners. She believes that experience sharing is one of the greatest ways to find creative solutions to problems. “No matter what industry, most entrepreneurs have faced similar challenges before and sometimes have great solutions you would have never thought of on your own,” says Lorenzi.
Typically, a mentor is someone who:
Provides guidance that is rooted in real-world experience
Sheds a light on opportunities you might be overlooking
Raises a red flag on potential issues you may be failing to notice
Asks you strategic questions designed to challenge you
Enables you to pivot your business in the right direction
Helps you think through an idea, approaching it from different angles
Provides access to a network of resources
Builds your confidence
And this is just a mere sampling of the value that mentorship provides.
But where, and how, do you go about finding a mentor?
The importance of finding a mentor that suits you and your needs, someone with whom you feel compatibility, cannot be stressed enough. According to Lorenzi, some of the most important qualities to look for in a mentor relationship are trust, respect, and authenticity, as well as a safe and confidential environment.
To experience all the benefits that mentorship offers, it is also important as a mentee to listen, ask questions, and be open to new viewpoints. Being open-minded will ensure you extract the most from your mentorship experience. It might take a couple tries to find a mentor that’s an ideal “fit” for you, but when you find the right one, you’ll know.
Below are three effective routes you can pursue to seek out a mentor:
Entrepreneurial Hubs/Small Business Associations: This could include your local Entrepreneur Center or SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Businesses) chapter location. These organizations pair entrepreneurs with mentors who are dedicated to offering sound guidance to current or aspiring business owners. Your mentoring sessions can be tailored according to your needs through in-person, phone, video, or email mentoring.
Local Businesses: Is there a local business that you admire, a company whose success you strive to emulate? Try reaching out to the company founder or CEO. Oftentimes, they will be willing to meet with aspiring entrepreneurs – after all, there was a time when they were in your shoes. You can also attend an industry or trade exposition and connect with business people who are representing companies you admire.
Platforms/Apps: The tech world has caught on to the power of mentorship and responded with the development of some valuable online platforms and applications. Create a profile on MicroMentor and get in touch with a skilled mentor who is ready to help drive your business forward. If you’re looking for peer mentoring with an emphasis on community and accountability, be sure to check out OwnersUp. Or join Clarity, where you can browse a directory of experts to find the right one for you, then request a call. Joining is free, but call charges vary based on the mentor’s per-minute rate.
Is mentorship right for you?
Take the leap and find out. When I asked Lorenzi whether mentorship is for people who are just starting out, or if it is also beneficial for people who are already running a business, she enthusiastically explained that mentorship offers something for everyone - even the mentors themselves.
“I think mentorship is for people at all stages of their lives and businesses. Hopefully we are all learning and growing. We can look ahead and reach up to a mentor for advice on what’s to come and reach back and give back to those that aren’t as far along on their journey as we are.”
For Further Reading:
“Mentors Are the Secret Weapons of Successful Startups” – A focus on entrepreneurial mentorship in the tech industry
“Clarity Launches Mobile Mentorship Service To Connect Startup Founders With Good Advice” - More info on the Clarity app