There's no doubt a mentor can help you get over start-up humps and give you the inspiration and advice you need to succeed. But how do you find a mentor who's right for you?
Begin your search by thinking about highly successful people you know. They could be your relatives or--as in Schwarz's case--your friends' relatives or people you've met through networking functions whom you admire and want to emulate.
Next, know what you expect from a mentor. Schwarz suggests looking for someone with these qualities:
1. Has your best interests in mind. Is this someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing sensitive personal and business information? "It's hard a lot of times, especially in [the highly competitive toy] industry, to find people who look out for your best interests," says Schwarz. "If I have an idea for a new product, I don't want to show it to too many people."
2. Offers objective advice. "Look for someone who will actually tell you the truth," Schwarz advises.
3. Understands you. "You have to find someone who understands you, besides what you want them to mentor you on," suggests Schwarz. "In addition to knowing how good your product is or how to enter your industry, [your mentor has] to understand your abilities."
Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.