Building a business is difficult. It can be tiring, stressful and lonely. It can also be incredibly complex with a myriad of different issues and problems continually vying for your attention. No one can be an expert on everything and sometimes your problems can become so great that you will wonder why you ever started the business in the first place. But there is a way to combat at least some of these side effects: get a mentor!
Every person who has ever built a successful business has had a mentor - usually more than one at different stages of the company's growth. They might not have called these people mentors or viewed them as such; they might just have thought of them as a friend. But without them they would not have been a success. I've had many business mentors throughout my career and I know the vital value they can add to your company - and your life.
An experienced sounding board
A mentor is someone who actively listens to you; a person outside your business who can listen to your ideas and concerns, help you think things through and give you a different perspective. Sounds simple, right? Anyone can do that! Not so. An effective business mentor is someone who understands the problems you face because they've been there too. Alongside offering advice based on their own experience of everything from marketing and finance to recruitment and innovation, they act like a sounding board; reflecting the sound of your ideas back towards you so that you can hear how they sound in a different way.
Unless you purposefully go out and 'buy' a business mentor service, which is an option, most mentors don't come with big label saying: I am your business mentor! They are much more likely to be people you meet while networking; contacts you build up over time. A mentor doesn't necessarily have to be someone from your exact field or industry, just someone who is experienced in business. Obviously a seasoned entrepreneur who understands your field has many advantages but sometimes mentors who know nothing about your industry can offer the perspective of age and experience as well as bringing a new dimension and help you think 'outside the box'.
A great mentor is worth their weight in gold
In business, experience can be even more valuable than money. Without knowledge and experience, you cannot hope to make money in the long term - and one person can never have all the knowledge and skills necessary to build a successful business. A great business mentor is someone who can see the bigger picture when you're caught up in the detail; a person who can inspire and motivate you when you're at your lowest ebb.
Every great business person cites at least one mentor who helped them become a success and it's hard to find a globally famous CEO that doesn't acknowledge at least one mentor - everyone from Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett note that their success is, in part, due to their mentors. Sir Richard Branson was mentored by iconic airline owner Freddie Laker and Sir James Dyson cites his first boss, James Fry, as his mentor.
Why doesn't everyone have a mentor?
So if having a business mentor is such a great idea why don't all entrepreneurs have one? The main reason why people don't ask for help is that they hate admitting they don't know it all! In our society, sadly, people still don't always have the confidence to ask for guidance - they believe other people will see them as weak. This is, of course, ridiculous and it's a terrible shame because I just can't imagine building a successful business without the wise words and encouragement of people more experienced than myself.