For the young entrepreneur, getting off the ground and moving toward success is rarely a quick and easy process. Having a strong mentor -- someone who has been there and done that -- can be invaluable. A great mentor will pass on what they've learned over the years so you can avoid some of their mistakes. But finding the right mentor can be more challenging than just meeting someone who's been successful in your field.
These six entrepreneurs explain what sets a great mentor apart from the pack -- and what you should strive for when it's your turn to guide the next generation of business leaders.
They have expertise in managing finances.
From a strictly practical viewpoint, a helping hand with a talent for finance can be key for a new entrepreneur. "So many businesses fail because of mismanaged money," notes Leila Lewis, CEO and founder of public relations firm Be Inspired PR.
"When it comes to my business, mentors with experience in finance have been very influential for me," she says. "Having someone who can speak with knowledge and experience about managing money (especially in the startup stages) can be vital to the success of a company."
They are honest.
"The best thing you can ask for from a mentor is honesty," according to Christopher Swenor, CEO of app creator East Coast Product. What is the value of advice if it doesn't come from a place of truth? Being honest is more important than being nice.
"You want your mentor to be able to tell you when you are doing things right and, more importantly, when you're doing things wrong. Listen to feedback and don't take offense; they are only trying to help," adds Swenor.
They are focused.
John Rood, president of standardized test prep specialist Next Step Test Preparation, says: "Young entrepreneurs always want to do too much too fast. That's a great inclination, but one thing experienced business owners can help with is getting you to focus on a few important things."
Trying to do too many things at once can lead to shortfalls in every area. A mentor can help narrow your focus to what really needs work now. "In my best mentor relationships, I was encouraged to bring a list of three issues or concerns to address in every meeting," Rood notes.
They are patient.
Building a business takes time, as does learning to be a leader. A great mentor needs to both have patient with a mentee and be able to teach that patience.
"Young entrepreneurs are often unrealistic with how long the journey actually takes," says Krish Chopra, partner at nurse practitioner placement service Nurse Practitioner Clinical Rotations. "When I was 23, I absolutely knew that by 26 I would have a seven-figure business with a slew of accolades. Fortunately, my mentor spent months showing me how long, arduous and tiring the journey would be. He helped me fall in love with the process instead of the results."
They have the ability to really see you.
Is a mentor really serving you well if he doesn't understand your needs? A mentor should be just as interested in you as a person as he is in your company.
"In my experience working with my mentor, I felt empowered and excited by her suggestions, because she really took the time to get to know me and show me my best qualities -- and how to support them. An amazing mentor sees your values and strengths and helps you unleash your best self," notes Rachel Beider, CEO of massage therapy business Massage Greenpoint and Massage Williamsburg.
They are willing to let you make mistakes.
"A great mentor lets you make your own mistakes when navigating your career choices," says Bryanne Lawless, owner and managing partner of PR firm BLND Public Relations. After all, our mistakes are often the best learning experiences.
"While your mentor's experiences and opinions are important, you shouldn't feel forced to do exactly what they tell you," she adds. "In my experience, the most important role my mentors played was allowing me to follow my gut, even in times when they wouldn't do exactly the same."