Whether your startup company is just beginning to come together, or if it still something kicking around in your mind, one piece of advice seems to be consistent: Find a mentor. Indeed, it makes sense that so many people would think to suggest that. Take a look at every successful entrepreneur in the world today. If you want, go back through the history of business, and what people often had to do, in order to bring their dreams into reality.
Almost all of them had a mentor at some point. Hard work, not to mention a great idea, are obviously crucial steps to success. However, almost everyone has to receive some help along the way.
Why A Mentorship Is More Than Just Help
To be sure, mentorship is certainly a form of help. However, one could argue that it is a far more significant type of help, than someone who gives you a piece of advice, or gives you a little money to get your startup off the ground. Those things are pretty crucial on the road to success, as well. With a mentor, the interaction is going to be a little more intensive.
A relationship between a mentor and mentee isn’t just a one-off interaction. You aren’t just attending a lecture, or sending someone a quick email, asking for their advice on a particular issue. There is no question that your startup needs a powerful foundation to be successful. A lot of this foundation is going to be built by understanding what is going on around you. It will involve having a strong sense of your resources, as well to go for those resources. It will also involve knowing what to do, when faced with an issue that could make the difference for the success or failure of your venture.
Unfortunately, a great idea isn’t always going to be enough. We have to be able to move forward with that idea. A mentor is someone who was in a similar positon to yours, not too long ago. They may or may not be able to fast-track your success. However, when a mentorship goes well, you will be left with a number of insights and gifts that you didn’t have before. There are in fact a number of exceptional benefits to having a mentor in your corner.
Understanding these benefits can give you a clearer idea of what you need to look for in such a relationship.
Benefits Of Mentorship
While virtually all startups and entrepreneurs should strongly consider the possibility of a mentorship, a surprising number fail to do so. This can be for any number of reasons. Some find the concept intimidating. Others do not know where to look. A few truly believe they can go it alone.
Maybe so. However, if you are at least curious about what to look for in a mentorship, and where to go to find that relationship, then let’s talk about some of the general benefits associated with taking advantage of a mentorship:
- Experience: Times may change, but certain aspects of making a startup come to life are always going to remain the same. You may not have the experience to fully appreciate that fact, but you can expect your mentor will.
- Someone to listen: Another benefit to that experience is that you’re getting someone who will be interested in hearing your ideas. Remember that they agreed to mentor you for the fact that you engaged their interest with what you have to offer. Their experience can make them an invaluable resource, in terms of having someone you can bounce ideas off of.
- Skill set: Another thing about experience is that it tends to give the successful ones a great deal of talents and skills. There are many different ways a mentor approaches their relationship with a mentee. In some situations, it can even mean joining you to work on the ground floor of your startup. You remain the one who is ultimately in charge, but they have talents and ideas that will prove to be invaluable in those early days.
- Focus: A mentor will certainly understand that focus is one of the most profoundly important resources a startup needs to survive. Their interest in helping you get to the next level will often mean helping you to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
- Connections: Regardless of what your startup is all about, it is almost a guarantee that you are going to have to do some networking. This can mean a number of different tactics and approaches. Some of best opportunities may not even be available to you, and this is where the mentor comes into play. The best mentors know people. While this isn’t something you should actively exploit, it is still something you will likely still get to enjoy during your time with your mentor. A mentor usually comes with a considerable rolodex (so to speak). Sometimes, the biggest breaks involve knowing someone who can hold the door open for you—just long enough for you to get your foot in.
Flexibility of the relationship itself is another benefit that is worth discussing in greater detail. To be sure, it is one of the most important things you should look for in a relationship with a mentor.
A Mentorship Can Be A Lot Of Things
One of the biggest benefits is also something that you should keep in mind, in terms of what you should look for in a relationship with a mentor. While there are certain consistencies to expect in such a relationship (such as being able to utilize their experience), there are also a lot of different ways you can experience one of these relationships.
It is important to look for a mentor who is not going to simply be a glorified boss. You want someone who shares your values, and who will listen to your ideas. You should expect honest responses to those ideas, but you should still always look for someone who wants you to put yourself forward. Your needs are ultimately your own. The situation that will likely work best is to have someone who will see your needs, as well as your potential. They will then combine those things with their experience and other features. At this point, the relationship between mentor and mentee will unfold.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different ways in which such a relationship can develop. You want a mentor who will be there when you need them. Some mentorships last for a few months, while some can last for a number of years. Some relationships last until the end of someone’s life. You can always find success stories who will speak about their mentors as though they are still a very important part of their life.
Your relationship with a mentor doesn’t have to be like that. However, it certainly can be.
Where To Find Mentors
At this point, you should have an idea of what to look for in a mentor. Chemistry, honesty, and commitment are all qualities to seek out. You want someone with a proven track record for success, in addition to someone who understands your industry, is a good listener, has time to offer, and is willing to give you difficult advice. You certainly want someone who will provide you with a unique, essential challenge, as your startup continues to evolve.
With an understanding of what to seek out in mentors, you can now better appreciate where these people are often found. You will obviously have to be patient. These relationships often take time to develop, and you certainly can’t force one to happen. You may have to make a bold impression on someone in a time crunch situation, but that’s still different from trying to convince someone that they should be your mentor. The singular spark you bring to the world with your startup idea will often be enough to throw that vital spotlight on your person.
Keeping all of that in mind, here are some of the most common places in which mentor relationships begin:
- Networking opportunities/events: These are events that are designed to bring together for one reason or another. In general, an event like this can be a great chance to build a number and range of different business relationships. Talk to people, and look for potential partnerships without being too forward.
- Points of interest: Does your city have an enthusiastic, diverse startup scene? If so, it is likely that there are startup incubators or get-togethers going on in your area.
- LinkedIn: To be sure, the business-specific social media site has a lot to offer. This is particularly true with regards to developing business relationships. LinkedIn is getting a little crowded, but it remains a viable place in which to meet people.
- Twitter: Believe it or not, but Twitter has proven to be a great place time and time again for connecting people with similar values and goals. The landscape is a little chaotic, but there is no question that your future mentor could be waiting for you.
A mentor can give you the dramatic start you’re looking for. Chances are, your startup goals will be achieved much more quickly with someone who is ready to share their lifetime of experience.