As an entrepreneur, it's exciting to go it alone and create something on your own. However, the reality is that, while you have a great idea, you may not know exactly what you should be doing with your business at which times to develop it into a sustainable business.
I've had several mentors over the years and learned a large amount of valuable lessons from each and every one of them. From not making certain business decisions to fostering certain partnerships, a mentor can help guide you through your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are ten other reasons why you need someone like a mentor:
1. Mentors provide information and knowledge. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." When I was starting out, I had no idea what was involved in running a business, including making a business plan, budgeting, handling daily operations, making strategic decisions or running a marketing campaign. With a mentor there from the start, I tapped into a wealth of knowledge that got me up to speed faster and shortened that learning curve.
2. Mentors can see where we need to improve where we often cannot. Movie maker George Lucas noted, "Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults that we would like. It's the only way we grow." They will always be brutally honest with you and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you.
This constructive criticism that my mentor offered helped me to see things in myself that I could not recognize. I appreciated that insight because I didn't want someone to pad my ego. (Well, I did want someone to pad my ego, but I had to decide that the business was more important.) Instead, I wanted to know exactly where I was lacking so I could improve those areas.
3. Mentors find ways to stimulate our personal and professional growth. Another famous movie director explained, "The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." My mentor would often pose questions for me to think about and ask me to come back with answers later.
He would also set various goals for me and let me loose to see if I could accomplish them on my own, all the while watching from a distance to see how these projects helped me to develop. He then made a point to sit down and tell me what he'd observed about me through the project process, what he thought was worth keeping - and definitely what he would immediately throw out. He also focused on character and values, which nurtured my personal growth as well as my leadership abilities.
4. Mentors offer encouragement and help keep us going. Inspirational entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey stated, "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself." They are there no matter what and offer moral support sprinkled heavily with cheerleading. There were times that, if there wasn't a mentor there for me, I could have easily, "caved-in," emotionally, or given up on the business. However, I had a mentor and each one I had wouldn't let me stop but provided the encouragement and guidance that gave me hope and confidence that I could do whatever was asked of me.
5. Mentors are disciplinarians that create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves. I experienced a lot of tough love from my mentor. He did this because he understood that being an entrepreneur can be challenging when it comes to self-motivation and self-discipline. He took on this role of parent to teach me good work habits and provided the boundaries for me to work within. This solidified my work ethic, sharpened my focus, (I really missed some important essentials), and clarified my priorities in a way that I could not do on my own.
6. Mentors are sounding boards so we can bounce ideas off them for an unfiltered opinion. When I started, I had numerous ideas for all types of business ventures and products. I relayed all of these to my mentor who then helped me see which ones had potential and why others were better left alone. I appreciated his candor because I might have otherwise pursued a business idea that had no legs.
7. Mentors are trusted advisers. In the world of business, it can be hard to know who to trust - and that you can trust someone, especially with proprietary information or intellectual property. Since he was an objective third-party with no stake in any idea or venture, he was happy to let me know what he thought. In return, I knew that he would keep everything I told him confidential rather than sell it to someone else or steal an idea from me.
8. Mentors can be connectors. Playing a dual role of teacher and connector, a mentor can provide access to those within your industry that are willing to invest in your company, offer their skills and expertise, introduce you to talent that can fuel your business and help you get closer to your target audience. My mentor willingly shared his network with me, taking me to events and making introductions that led to many opportunities I would not have otherwise had.
9. Mentors have the experiences you can learn from to prevent making the same mistakes beginners make. Starting a business is challenging enough, so if you can skip doing things the hard way, why wouldn't you? A mentor has been there, right where you are, and has made numerous mistakes that they can now use as a basis for helping others to skip the devastating effects of not knowing.
I am all about doing things smarter, so my mentor shared many stories about the mistakes he made along the way that became learning lessons for me minus the pain and lost resources that come from making those mistakes.
10. Mentors are free, which makes them priceless in more ways than one. Typically, a mentoring relationship will grow organically through connections within your industry and network. A mentor does not do it for the money. Instead, they are driven by the satisfaction of helping another entrepreneur, paying it forward from a similar experience they had when starting their own business.
I feel fortunate enough to have had this experience and am now in a position to return the favor to others that are just starting out. Not only is the price right, but your mentor is also providing priceless access to everything noted on this list and more.
Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and are driven enough to succeed.