Study any successful entrepreneur and nearly every single one will point to a mentor as the key ingredient to their success.
Getting a mentor is arguably the most powerful piece of advice any budding entrepreneur can receive when embarking on a career in business. Research the wealthiest people in world and you’ll discover that they all had mentors.
Warren Buffett’s mentor was Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates early mentor was his father, then later Warren Buffett. Mark Zuckerburg’s mentor was Steve Jobs. However, if having a mentor is the most important step an entrepreneur can take, then why do so many ignore this advice?
Why ‘get a mentor’ advice goes unheeded
Richard Branson, who’s a huge advocate of mentorship once said, “Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups…
Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.” Branson’s assertion was that ego and pride prevents entrepreneurs from reaching out for help.
One of the deepest negative beliefs we all have as humans is feeling that we aren’t enough. In the back of your mind you’ve likely questioned whether you are good enough, smart enough, funny enough, attractive enough, successful enough, patient enough etc. to get the things you truly want in life. This belief of not being enough, is so common because it is also linked to our deepest fears.
Our brain knows that when we don’t meet expectations, it often leads to failure at work, rejection in relationships and the feeling of guilt from letting others down.
This is why asking for help can be so hard, because it ultimately is proving this detrimental belief correct.
Seeking mentorship can seem counterintuitive for an entrepreneur. Whether you’re working on your own as a consultant, the founder of a start-up or the CEO of an established company, why would you want to expose your weaknesses? What would happen to your reputation if other people found out where you lacked? What would investors, customers and competitors think?
We often avoid looking for a mentor or seeking help because of our ego. We’re concerned that if we ask for help we’re going to be perceived as weak, like we lack knowledge, experience and the ability to make things happen on our own.
Finding the right mentor
Once your ego, pride and fears are set aside, you can embark on finding the right mentor. But the ideal mentor may not be easy to find. Phil Pustejovsky was in that position 15 years ago.
Phil’s story provides a wonderful case study with many lessons on how you can find the right mentor. His real estate investing start-up was failing and he was so humbled by the experience that he was open to seeking help.
Not knowing any successful business people, being in a small niche of the greater real estate space and having no real connections in an estranged city, Phil had no idea how to find the right mentor.
However through his daily interactions, Phil ran into a successful out-of-state real estate investor that just happened to be in town for a few weeks who was looking to duplicate himself.
Now that Phil was consciously aware of his need for a mentor, he recognised the opportunity. From these experiences Phil now believes that when the student is ready, the teacher arrives.
The arrangement was that Phil would split 50/50 the profits from his next $500,000 with new mentor. Through the tutelage of his mentor, Phil became an extraordinarily successful real estate investor and eventually created the iconic organisation, Freedom Mentor, a company that mentors real estate investors on creative real estate investing.
That’s great news if you’re a budding real estate entrepreneur, but what about everyone else? Here’s some ideas on finding a mentor for yourself.
1Understand your ego
No one likes asking for help. You can blame a deep rooted belief system called your ego for this. It ultimately tells us what needs to happen in our lives in order for us to feel good. It makes us believe that in order to feel confident we need to be self-reliant and competent, and that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Over time this way of thinking has created a habit that avoids looking for external help.
2Eliminate your ego
To be successful it’s important to feel confident in your vulnerability. To alter any habit, consistency is critical. Start small by reaching out to friends and people close to you for advice.
Literally write this down as a daily or weekly goal. As you get more comfortable with feeling vulnerable and verbalising what you need, you will be preparing yourself to expand beyond your immediate circle. In business, this practice will help you tap into your emotions and enable you to connect with your customers on a deeper level as well.
3Determine the value you bring first
We often perceive mentorship as a one-way street, where the mentor is always guiding the mentee. The reality is that those roles can be reversed depending on what each person needs help with. So before asking for help, determine what value you can provide others in return first. What do you specialise in? What are you most skilled at that could benefit others?
You may be able to find a first class mentor in your niche, like Phil Pustejovsky, by simply conducting an online search. However, it’s quite rare to find a mentor type company in most business niches. To discover a particular individual in your field, LinkedIn is a great resource to research and connect.
Remember that when you reach out to someone, you’re not asking them to be your mentor immediately. You’re simply looking for some guidance and advice from a seasoned professional. After that initial connection is made, you can follow the tips in the next step to take your relationship to the next level.
Through daily interactions in your business, you may run into an ideal candidate who is open to sharing their wisdom. When reaching out to these people focus on creating a connection first and foremost.
Then in your initial meeting make sure you are honest about where you need help, and at the end ask if it is ok for you to reach out to them in the future for assistance. When you reconnect with them weeks or months down the road, this is where that mentorship relationship can begin to be established.
Think of the heroes in your niche. Although they may be hard to get a hold of, reach out to them. If you knock loud enough and long enough, you’ll eventually wake someone up. Successful entrepreneurs will appreciate your ambition and determination to learn.
As you probably already knew, having the right mentor is one of the most powerful pieces of advice anyone can give you in business. However, ego, pride and fear can prevent someone from heeding that life transforming tip. Therefore, humble yourself and when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.
Finding the right mentor may vary in difficulty depending on your niche so choose wisely, because the wrong mentor could lead down a frustrating path. With the right mentor though, you will achieve far more than you ever dreamed possible.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk
Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…
You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.
Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.
It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.
There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…
Step 01: Do your research
No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.
Step 02: Understand the costs
Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.
A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.
Step 03: Know when to walk away
As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.
You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.
Mind The Gap
The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.
Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.
Here are five…
It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.
2. Look for pain
Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.
Be the Panado that fixes these pains.
This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.
4. Luck needs courage
You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.
Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.
5. Pay attention
This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.
5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.
Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.
Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”
As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:
1. This too shall pass
Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.
2. Appreciate what this phase brings
The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.
3. Establish boundaries
Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.
4. Take a break
Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.
5. Give it space to make mistakes
While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.
During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.
While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.