When you make the decision to be an entrepreneur one of the first things you realise along your journey is that there are so many things that you don’t know.
Usually, it starts with an idea in mind or a skill you have and eventually you decide to turn it into a product or service. But having a product or service is only one small part of being an entrepreneur. There’s so much more that you and your team need to know in order to succeed.
When you start out, you’ll likely have to wear many hats. You’ll have to figure out things like marketing, sales, production, logistics and supply chain, distribution, customer service, accounting, etc, which are all essential parts of building a successful business. But more often than not, we entrepreneurs don’t start out with knowledge in all of these areas.
There are a few ways you can bridge that knowledge gap and become better as an entrepreneur. You can figure things out as you go along, or you can read books, or even take courses, but one of the most effective ways to bridge your knowledge gap as an entrepreneur is to have mentors.
I’m not talking about people who inspire you or your “role models”( which very often confused with mentors). By mentor, I’m talking someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time, usually free of charge, who agrees to guide you and as you navigate the entrepreneurship maze.
There are several good reasons why you need a mentor.
Mentors serve as a shorter route to acquiring valuable knowledge. They can teach you in a few weeks what it would take years of reading or experience to learn.
Very often, their wealth of wisdom and years of experience will help you avoid many pitfalls and mistakes they themselves made along their journeys.
Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride. There are great times and bad times. During the bad times when things are not going well, you can turn to your mentor and they can empathize with you. Because they’ve been there before.
So, how do you get a mentor? You would have to be deliberate about it. Great mentors don’t suddenly show up at your doorstep, you know.
So I’ll share below a few steps you can use to find mentors and what has worked for me.
Step 1: Make a list of people you admire who you personally already know. Usually I like to find people who are experts in the fields that I need the most help in. I also like to find people I personally vibe with.
Step 2: Write down your goals, expectations, and what you can offer in return. What do you want from your mentor? What can you give them in return?
Step 3: Reach out to them and ask if they can mentor you. Some will say yes. Some will neither say yes nor no. No hard feelings.
Step 4: Schedule your first meetings. Maybe online. Maybe in person. In person works better. Go to the meeting having already prepared and discussed an agenda. During the meeting, clarify your goals, expectations and needs with them and make sure you are on the same page as far as expectations are concerned.
Step 5: Continue nourishing the relationships you’ve established. Develop a consistent meeting schedule with your mentors. For me I agree with my mentors to email them once every two weeks to give them updates on what we have been doing so far and have a call once a month or a physical meeting of possible to address more pressing issues on my mind.
So what if you don’t know any suitable mentor personally? Even so, I would advise against just emailing people you don’t know and asking them to mentor you. What works better is to meet and develop relationships with people first. One of the ways I have met prospective mentors is through networking events and conferences.
If you have someone on your list you’d really like as a mentor, find an event they are attending or speaking at and connect with them there.
One last thing. If you’re looking for mentoring from people ready and willing to mentor young entrepreneurs, check out MicroMentor.org, a free website that connects mentors and entrepreneurs. The good thing is, you don’t need to know them personally!
The rewards of having a business mentor can be great and there’s nothing to lose. If you’re serious about growing as an entrepreneur, get yourself a mentor.