Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy
One potential downside of entrepreneurship has nothing to do with being in charge of your own work. Over the years, one of the most consistent complaints we’ve heard from entrepreneurs is that they’re lonely. If you’ve left a busy work environment to start your own company – especially if you work from home – going it alone can be tough (Why do you think there are so many people with laptops camped out at Starbucks?).
It’s no surprise, therefore, that finding a mentor ranks high on entrepreneurs’ wish lists. Smart entrepreneurs know that there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Many people think that if they could just find someone ahead of them on the learning curve, they could greatly advance their own business.
It will be challenging to find someone in your industry who is more experienced than you, not threatened by you, and who is endlessly available to answer your questions. So here’s our tip: Don’t look to just one person to fill the mentor role for you. If you can’t find a perfect role model, draw on different strengths from different people.Mentors are wonderful. They understand best practices in their industries. They can save you time and money by teaching you valuable lessons, and can generally make you feel less alone in the business world. A mentor can be anyone whose opinion you trust, ideally who is in a related industry and further along in their business. The trouble is that this can be a tall order to fill.
Even among people you know you can find examples of best practices and opportunities to learn. When we ran our mail order company, we forged a relationship with a bigger mail order company. We also had a mentor who advised us on business partnerships. And another one who helped guide our strategic thinking.
In fact, we think you should always be willing to talk to anyone who knows anything about business. It can’t hurt. Even if you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle who can help you, ask around. People are usually flattered to be considered experienced and wise. And it doesn’t mean you need to do what someone else does or suggests. You don’t need to take someone’s advice, but you should always listen to it. One way or another, you’re guaranteed to learn something.
If you’ve been searching for the perfect mentor and that person is either not available to you, or doesn’t exist, don’t be discouraged. Just break down your specific needs, and find the help you need from different people.