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How Mentoring Augments the Entrepreneurial Journey Most successful business leaders had a mentor along the way. That relationship is a two-way street.

By Lewis Schiff Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Bill Gates. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Tony Hsieh.

As entrepreneurs, we find their stories equally inspiring and intimidating. Like every other business owner with a dream, they started at the bottom. So how did they get to the top? The answer: they had help from people who'd been there before — mentors they trusted to show them the ropes, answer the questions and guide them towards the right decisions.

Our society recognizes the value of education, but there are few educational opportunities for entrepreneurs that speak directly to their unique needs (ie: all the intangible skills it takes to run a business, like reading people in a meeting, negotiating and weeding through different people and talents to find just the right one). Mentoring is the closest thing we have, and it's as important today as ever.

The "pay it forward" mentality

Mentors are people who made it to the top and feel an obligation to show others the way. It's a rewarding relationship for both parties. The mentor has the opportunity to make a real, positive difference in the lives of others, while the mentee gets a bridge across the toughest portion of the entrepreneurial journey.

Related: 4 Reasons You Should Seek Out a Business Coach

By taking on a mentor, you gain a sounding board to bounce ideas off of — someone with the skills and knowledge to provide useful, insightful opinions about those ideas. It's an incredible asset to any entrepreneur.

Selecting a mentor

Mentors aren't prizes to be won. They're matches to be made. Just because you admire someone as a business owner doesn't mean they're right for you. Here are the three basics:

  1. Energy: Look for a mentor who shares your enthusiasm.
  2. Belief: Find someone who shares your values.
  3. Relationship: Criticism is an essential part of learning so you want a person whose feedback style gels with yours.

If you're an entrepreneur with big dreams, take the time to cultivate a relationship with a quality mentor and get the experience you need before you need it.

Related: How an Incubator Helped a Gluten-Free Food Truck

Lewis Schiff

Author, Executive Director The Business Owners Council, co-founder of BEN Global Mentorship

Lewis Schiff is the author of Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons and the co-founder of BEN Global Mentorship, which enables up-and-coming entrepreneurs around the world access to their favorite “rock star entrepreneurs” through exclusive eight-week mentoring “sprints.” Get Schiff's top 10 secrets to success for up and comers.

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