At the core of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO)'s mission is an unrelenting commitment to support entrepreneurs at every stage with the knowledge and tools necessary to grow their companies. The organization offers a structured mentorship program that fosters relationships aimed at high-level leadership and personal development within a set timeframe, enabling mentees to work toward personalized, measurable and attainable goals with encouragement from an experienced mentor. We asked EO members about mentorship. Here's what they shared.

As an entrepreneur, the right mentoring relationship can provide the fuel necessary to drive your business to new heights. Yet the process of connecting with the right mentor can seem overwhelming. How do you find your ideal mentor? What type of mentor should you seek? And on the flip side, if you're an established entrepreneur, what are the advantages of becoming a mentor?

Whether you have a specific person in mind or you're seeking someone new to help you reach your business goals, look for the following qualities in any potential mentor.

1. Candor

It's important to feel comfortable speaking openly with your mentor. It's equally important that he or she feels comfortable being direct with you. But your mentor doesn't need to be your best pal. In fact, mentors may be more effective if they're able to view your business with fresh, unbiased eyes.

Look for someone who asks questions that help you work through your challenges. A good mentor guides you, rather than solving problems for you. If you can't agree on the way you want to interact, it may be wise to choose a different mentor.

"We were both unsure whether the mentorship needed to be a hierarchical relationship to be successful," says entrepreneur Gogo Schumacher, a member of EO Switzerland-Zurich, who served as a mentor through the EO Mentorship program.

"The time we invested in discussing that question at the beginning, even before engaging, was key to managing expectations. That our relationship turned into a friendship is an unexpected gift," Gogo says.

Remember, a mentorship is a formal relationship similar to the one you might have with a paid business coach. It has a beginning and an end--and it's governed by terms you set together.

2. Big-picture commitment

Especially if you're an early-stage entrepreneur, it may be tempting to seek a mentor who acts as a teacher, telling you what to do and how to do it.

However, mentors should demonstrate a commitment to helping you define your goals and find the right solutions, even if that means watching you make mistakes. Look for a mentor who is dedicated to your long-term development as an entrepreneur, not only to your achievement of a specific business goal.

"My mentor helped me create reports in my accounting program so that I could see where my business stood in real-time," explains Australian entrepreneur and EO Brisbane member Gerard Murtagh. "That helped me understand the importance of certain key levers in my business."

3. Encouragement

A great mentor will be willing to share detailed positive and negative experiences from their career as you talk through your plans. Experience sharing is one of the best ways that mentors can help you make a more informed decision or avoid a pitfall.

At the same time, they should boost your courage to take bold steps in pursuit of goals. While a mentor doesn't need to agree with every choice you make, they should respect and support you through the process--even if you make a misstep that they saw coming. 

"At some point, I wanted to cut costs, but what I needed to do was increase revenue," Murtagh says. "Without my mentor's insights, I wouldn't have had the confidence to keep the growth going."

4. Accountability

Entrepreneurs are, by nature, big thinkers. Sometimes, that can lead to starting or trying many things, but following through on only a few. In a successful mentorship, you'll share goals and plans with your mentor and follow-up regularly.

While it's on you to take action, your mentor should serve as an accountability partner. If you need to change plans, your mentor will be up-to-speed on your thought process and able to help you successfully pivot.

Mentorship is intended to help you, so don't expect your mentor to prompt you for progress reports. Instead, be prepared with updates when you connect.

5. Experience

Perhaps the most critical trait to find in a mentor is experience.

Many entrepreneurs equate experience with age--or financial success in the same industry. This isn't always the case, however. In fact, says Murtagh, "Everyone has a unique view of the world, and their experiences can help fast-track your growth regardless of whether they are old or young."

Similarly, you may find that a mentor in a different industry has precisely the experience you need despite not being intimately familiar with your product or services. A great leader may help you update your accounting techniques, ramp up staff satisfaction or take your marketing efforts to the next level.

If you're able to identify a specific area of your business to target, work with your mentor to achieve progress in that field--and then move on to a new mentorship focused on another aspect of your business.

Published on: Jan 25, 2019