When you look at the survival rate of new businesses, you’ll see that entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. When I was an NFL linebacker for the Chicago Bears, I thought my career was fully established. Little did I realize it was just a stepping stone to my true career.
After an injury that resulted in being sidelined and no longer able to play for the pros, I discovered my truest passion. Writing and speaking. However, when I uncovered what my true passion was, I had no idea how to pursue that career. That’s when I discovered I needed a mentor.
When I began to work on my personal growth, my mentor explained to me that I needed to become a different person than who I was if I wanted my business to be a thriving business. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant but I agreed and followed his lead. As time went on, I noticed almost everything that we talked about or worked on really had nothing to do with my actual business. Instead, it was all focused on who I was as a person, my characteristics, how I thought and what my daily habits were.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, I’m sure you have read or maybe even experienced firsthand the tremendous benefits from having a mentor. There is so much value that comes from learning from a master who has been there and done that.
I strongly believe that having a solid, experienced and willing mentor will do more for you personally and professionally than any book, online course, or any other type of learning material available. Without the help of my mentors, I may have never been able to build my public speaking business and writing career. Here are a few thoughts on finding a great mentor or friend to help you:
- The sky’s the limit! Think big from the start. If you don’t visualize yourself as being successful, then you won’t attract the great people who will want to help you.
- Be realistic. Recognize that there are things you don’t know. Remember, experience is built from your mentor facing the same or similar situations before. That’s something that no entrepreneur can have too much of on their team.
- Trust your instincts. This is your passion, your business. Listen to advice but be careful to filter it. You are in charge of your life and your decisions, so stay true to them.
- Use caution and choose your mentors carefully. Many people who “talk a big talk” may have few real experiences and will be more of a danger to you. Remember, the goal of this mentoring relationship is to make your habits and values better as you become more like the people you spend time with. It’s O.K. to have a friend as a mentor if you respect their principles. And it’s O.K. to choose someone you’ve never met.
- Timing is everything. The more proof you have that you are on to a winning idea, the easier it will be to attract a new mentor.
- Don’t expect your mentor(s) to have all the answers; however, a great mentor can help you find the answers for yourself or refer you to someone who can help.
- Be appreciative. Reward them well and be prepared to offer them equity or similar that will incentivize them to help you over the long-term to build your company and its value. (This, of course, depends on the type of mentor they are and the type of business you’re building).
- If this fits your business model, then seek out entrepreneur groups, business angel and seed capital networks. These are all good places to look for great advisers and mentors.
- Choose different mentors for different areas of your business. Someone who shared your vision for your business might not have the best advice about budgeting or back-office issues. So, choose different mentors for different needs.
Take Action: Application is king. If all you do is meet with your mentor or study about him in books, you’re not going to get much from this relationship. Once you have selected your mentor(s) you have to take action. Apply what you have learned!
Your mentor cannot do things for you. You have to do them yourself! This is the most important step with any mentor in your life: applying what you learn. At this point, you have come to the realization of just how important it is to grow personally, you have a world-class mentor to make sure you become the person you need to be in order to reach the top in your field, and now it’s time to apply everything that you learned.
If you find your business not growing or reaping the rewards you were maybe once hoping for, chances are that it has absolutely nothing to do with your actual business but everything to do with you individually. We can have mentors for literally every area of our life, but having one to help you grow personally will be one of the best decisions you ever made in your professional career. The fact is, if you grow personally, it will cross over into your professional life so you can maximize your company’s growth, as well.
Pay it forward. Remember this: Pay it forward. Mentoring is a cycle. Keep this cycle going and return the favor of all the wisdom you have received from your mentor by becoming a mentor yourself. The more you give, the more that will be returned to you. It’s a universal law of life.