How to Find the Right Mentor for Your Startup
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Q: How do you go about finding a mentor when there aren't any available in your area?
A: I find it hard to believe that mentors aren’t available in your area -- they are everywhere. There may not be a specific organization for mentor matching in your area, so you may need to do a little poking around.
Take a look at friends and family. My father ran a successful small business after a career in corporate America. When I decided to leave my job at Dell to be an entrepreneur, I started having a lot of business conversations with my dad. I also turned to friends and bounced ideas off of them on a regular basis. It was great to get their feedback, as they are successful in their own right, know me well and give great advice.
I also reached out to SCORE, a non-profit organization that offers free advice from retired professionals. SCORE set me up with an amazing mentor in a similar industry. We have been working together for the past four years, and I consider her a friend for life.
Another great place to find mentors is at networking or service organizations, like your local Rotary club. I have met some amazing business leaders in my community and as an added bonus, Rotary is all over the globe with more than 100 groups just in India.
Moreover, if you have access to the internet, you can still find mentors -- even if there are slim pickings locally. Social media, LinkedIn and online groups have made the world much smaller and much easier to connect.
Lastly, if you can’t find the type of organization you want, form your own. Because I am an entrepreneur in the co-working space, I helped found an organization called The League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces. It is a way for our members to find co-working spaces in the states as they travel. Besides being a benefit to members, the bi-weekly calls required of those who founded the group also provide an opportunity to brainstorm, and the constant encouragement has been priceless.
When you do approach a potential mentor be respectful of their time. Make sure you are doing all the coordination and you're on time. Be prepared, and if they give you homework, do it. If you gel with your mentor be sure to make them feel appreciated. If you disagree with their advice or don’t feel comfortable, send a handwritten thank-you note and find someone that encourages, inspires and pushes you to the next level.
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