Someone to Watch Over Me

Why go it alone when there's help to be had?

Chomping at the bit to get your business going? Although it's difficult to wait, you should get as much advice as possible in the pre-start-up phase before diving in. As most successful entrepreneurs will tell you, information is priceless. Their advice? Find a mentor to guide you through the "dos" and "don'ts" of entrepreneurship--that way, you can bound ahead without making too many bad calls.

If you make the mistake of trying to go it alone, you could wind up as another statistic. In fact, if more entrepreneurs hooked up with mentors in the start-up phase, we'd see fewer business fatalities, according to Jerry F. White, director of the Caruth Institute at the Cox School of Business, an entrepreneurial center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "A qualified mentor can show a start-up how things work in 'Entrepreneur Land,' saving them time and money in the bargain," White says.

Rob Adler agrees. If it weren't for his mentor, Jeff Parker, Adler wouldn't have been able to successfully launch CCBN.Com, a Boston Internet company that helps businesses communicate with shareholders. The relationship between the two men started five years ago when Adler was a 28-year-old MBA student at Harvard. Parker, now 54, was a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist who helped and often funded the start-ups of many young entrepreneurs.

Having heard good things about Parker and two other possible mentors, Adler cold-called them to set up initial information interviews. Of his interviews, Adler remembers a special chemistry between Parker and himself. Their relationship steadily evolved to the point where Parker helped Adler launch in 1997.

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Someone to Watch Over Me.

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