5 Small-Business Owners Share the Secrets to Building a Strong Network of Mentors
Thriving entrepreneurs turn to a brain trust of mentors to help them build their business. These mentors might be friends, family members, neighbors, teachers, entrepreneurs, former colleagues and business owners.
Savvy advisors can help you with every phase of business development. They can offer expertise, provide resources, eliminate road blocks, introduce important contacts and help you avoid serious mistakes during your journey.
Nearly all the entrepreneurs we met across America have developed a brain trust of mentors who assist them with a wide variety of issues.
Here is the advice they offered for building a strong network of mentors:
1. Make it easy
You pick your heroes and chart a course to get to them. Once you get an introduction, you want to maintain a friendship. . . . I found out that one of my mentors loves to go on morning hikes. So I asked him, ‘How about I meet you at the Mount Sanitas Trailhead and we’ll go hiking tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.?’ And he’s like, ‘That’s funny, that’s where and when I usually go hiking.’ I’m like, ‘Perfect, I will meet you there!’ So I made it really easy for them to meet with me. That friendship can blossom into mentorship and you can ask them to be on your advisory board. . . . Three of my favorite mentors are now on my board, and I have a regular relationship with them. So I really lean on my mentors for a lot.
--Justin Gold, founder of Justin's, natural and organic nut butters and peanut butter cups
2. Be mindful of people's time
I think it is huge not to be needy, but to know how to ask for help. You have to be respectful of people’s time. You have to know enough not to ask the most basic questions. Research enough so you are not wasting someone’s time when you go to them. Do the hard work along the way so they can see what progress you are making. If you are not following through and taking it seriously, then you are wasting their time and they are going to give up.
-- Amy Gardner, founder of Scarpa, a women’s clothing, shoe and accessory boutique
3. Take in all the lessons
I think that learning from other people’s mistakes, and most importantly, their successes, is the only way to learn in your business. When I started out I had coffee meetings ten times a week. I was really wired. I just started picking people’s brains. So I believe 100 percent in mentors.
-- Nicole DeBoom, founder of Skirt Sports, a women's activewear company
4. Keep your options open
I have a broad set of informal friends and mentors out there, and I think that’s one of the most critical things: to try to mine good information from good people. I regularly communicate with a half-dozen people about aspects of our business, whether it’s staffing or financials or product or factories. That’s one of the advantages I have starting this brand.
-- Steve Sullivan, founder of Stio, outdoor apparel and gear company
Find people who genuinely want you to succeed
I think we have been pretty blessed to have so many amazing advisors. These are people who actually care for us. When your friends, family, and people who have known you for a long time step in and tell you something, you better listen. To that end, we have been phenomenally lucky to have great advisors. This list is pretty endless.
--Allen Lim, founder of Skratch Labs, a natural healthcare company