They say you never stop learning, and I couldn't agree more. Learning is a constant journey and our understanding is always evolving. Just as teachers provide you with the skills and knowledge on a subject area to help you pass your exams, a mentor in business will help you develop the business acumen needed to make your startup a success.
A mentor's role in a startup's survival is critical. However, one cannot discount the importance of a student making the most of the support given. After all, what is the value of good advice if it isn't acted upon?
Often mentors will provide you with the encouragement you want to hear to keep you motivated, but if you are making a mistake, it is paramount someone puts you straight and points you in the right direction. I myself have had many mentors in my life, but the most influential person on both my life and career has been my father. He was a credible businessman, and his tenacity to persevere as an entrepreneur has created the foundation for my own determination in business. It is probably why I have always taken an interest in supporting new businesses and why I have always lifted myself up whenever I have failed.
I've spent a lot of time mentoring people, most recently as part of my role in Top Recruiter. What's the point in having all of this knowledge and experience, if you're not going to share it? That's what I say. Helping fellow entrepreneurs realise their aspirations is something I am very passionate about. This is why I believe without a doubt that mentoring is up there with the most crucial aspects of the startup journey.
Mentors, however, can only do so much without the effort from your side. It's all well and good providing you with the support to help you and your startup stay up, but it isn't a one-way relationship. As a student, you have to be prepared to listen and take up this advice; otherwise it has no worth.
When meeting your mentor, it is vital to know the steps to take to prepare and make the most out of the intelligence you are given. The first thing you must ensure is that you regularly meet or speak to them. Make the time to keep them updated on your business, and before each meeting, send over a short agenda so they can prepare some information you might find relevant. In the same way, do your homework between meetings. The mentor is volunteering their time, and will be more responsive if you really appreciate it. This will form a more informal relationship, making them more responsive to your queries as well. Of course, setting goals of what you hope to achieve, and gauging the boundaries of your mentor-student relationship will preface your rapport, but it is worth keeping in mind you won't get anything if you don't ask for it. Be forthcoming and it will ultimately help your startup.
Mentoring is not easy either, for the student or the teacher. The experience is a constant learning path. Everyone needs a helping hand, no matter who you are. It is important to remember though, a mentor won't necessarily remove all the obstacles your startup faces, but they can certainly show you a better route to get to where you need to go.