Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, a hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life.
Anyone with the vision, talent, intelligence and grit willing to start a company is bound to push through hard times and overcome adversity. But everyone is prone to hitting a wall, and the best way to get over that wall is through a door. That "door" is a mentor.
Over the years, I've had several mentors. These mentors have helped me and my company through some of the harder times.
To be most effective, a mentor should specifically be someone who is a few steps ahead of you, has been through many of the problems you're facing, and has possibly tried and failed at those adverse moments but now has solutions.
That said, one mentor won't be able to solve every problem you might face. Choosing mentors is akin to selecting a board: you need a broad range of people with different talents who can help get the job done when your company is facing difficulties. Having access to a few viewpoints gives you insights into different problem areas. It also gives you options. If all your mentors give you the same advice, then the course is clear.
Here are a few types of mentors you should be cultivating to help guide you:
1. The Sales Mentor
Always stack your deck with at least one mentor who is killer at sales. Revenue is one of the biggest objectives (and hurdles) of entrepreneurship, and having a sales mentor who is good at everything from prospecting to determining your target customer to tactical negotiation is a must. Find a VP of Sales in your industry who has sold consumers all the way to the enterprise. This person can advise you on how to A/B test email messaging to prospects, build effective sales teams, and even how to deal with a difficult client.
Having a mentor like this has helped me to really push sales. I didn't have this mentor when I was building my first company. When I started my second startup Pixloo, this was the first person that I found. They helped me to be better at sales even though it's not my background. You should always be selling.
2. The Operations Guru
It's always good to have an operational mind walking through KPIs and leading indicators. This person is great at details and looking at your product in a streamlined way.
3. The Biz Dev Guru
This mentor has a list of contacts rich and deep into your industry and possibly target verticals. Whenever you have a problem, you can call up and ask, "Who can help me with this?" or "Do you know someone at XYZ company that can get us to purchasing?" Your networking genius will be 10 steps ahead, giving you warm introductions to all the right people. This could be a biz dev person or even an angel or VC with a vested interest in the project.
4. The Entrepreneur
This is a leader who has been through many of the same problems that you have, and will often walk you through war stories of how he or she got the job done when it comes to anything from employee headaches to investors. Choosing someone with a similar personality can have its rewards--he or she might deal with people the same way and give you insights into how to deal with people you both may deem "difficult." For example, business-minded CEOs will often have a problem communicating with engineers who see the world differently. Your mentor knows just the right tools to get those people back on track while you might want to go on a firing binge.
My mentor turned good friend John Rampton is an entrepreneur like myself. Ten years ago, he started mentoring me on a startup that I was pushing. Three years later, I ended up working with him on a company and selling it. He sill mentors me today, though he's working on his new startup, Due. Having a mentor who has walked in the same entrepreneur shoes before you is invaluable.
Utilizing Your Mentors
Determine what your strengths and weaknesses are and be incredibly specific. If you aren't interested in the details of your product and it's hurting your business, talk to the operations guru about how to make valuable changes, and talk to the entrepreneur about shortcuts to see how the product is performing without getting into the nitty-gritty details. Use them to shore up your weaknesses and turn strengths into expertise.
You might need other mentors based on the problems you're facing. Write down your goals and brainstorm who might be the best person--both title and industry-wise--to tackle them head on.