During the financial crisis, the U.S. economy shed 8 million jobs, Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data published in the Journal of Management Strategy indicates.

With fewer companies hiring, many of the unemployed and underemployed went out on their own, launching small businesses, freelancing or taking advantage of the growing on-demand economy.

With technology lowering the cost to start, run and grow a business, and low interest rates making capital cheaper, the recent fertile years for small business have broadened the diversity of owners running these operations.

Recent government data shows 2.2 million non-white Americans launched their own businesses in the years after the economic downturn--growing 38% between 2007 and 2012. And a recent National Women's Business Council report estimated that over the same period, the total number of women-led businesses in the U.S. grew 27.5% to 9.9 million in 2012.

So with so many new entrepreneurs launching, scaling and running businesses in the U.S., I recently reached out to President of Innovation and New Ventures at NASDAQ-listed Flex, Jeannine Sargent, to understand how she mentors new business leaders.

1. Appoint a board of directors

As an aspiring entrepreneur, look for good mentors who've had their own set of wins and failures. Their learnings can prove invaluable and help you to avoid making the same mistakes.

Your personal board of directors should be diverse - spread across industries, generations, gender, and even locations. The more diverse your mentors are, the better range of perspective you will receive.

Just as a company's advice needs change, yours too needs to evolve as your career evolves. Make it your mission to seek out good mentors - they are invaluable in your journey.

2. Be the janitor, the chef, the marketer, the finance guy.

Launching a new venture means for a while it's likely you'll have to be the jack-of-all-trades, and probably feel like the master of none.

The best way to deal with being spread so thin is to get as much diverse work experience as you can before you start your enterprise. It'll make it easier to deal with the unexpected down the track and give you the opportunity to learn from others before spending either your, or your investors', money.

3. Figure out what you're good at, but more importantly, what you're not

Identify your strengths and figure out your weaknesses early on. As you grow, it'll help you augment your team appropriately to fill gaps.

Your board of directors can usually help you figure that out pretty quickly.

4. Set your purpose and stick to it

When you find yourself in the thick of building a business, your purpose is what will bring you back to center, align you and help you prioritize.

Have a frank conversation with your advisors around what you're passionate about, what it is you want your business to achieve and codify it.

Having a solid purpose will help you not to lose sight during the many trials and tribulations of starting a business. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

Published on: Mar 22, 2016
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