It is often hard to ask for help, especially if you should be the expert yourself. If you decide to become an entrepreneur yourself after a long career in business you should already know everything, shouldn’t you? You might have supported others in this kind of work. You might even have been the strategy consultant advising successful new businesses. But still one of the most important investments to do when you decide to become an entrepreneur is not that nice desk or flashy cell phone, it is your very own dedicated mentor. A mentor should ideally support you with three important areas; keep the focus of your venture, encourage you, and challenge you.
- Hold you accountable. A person involved in your project knowing your goals and challenges interested in the next step of your journey.
- Inspire and encourage you. You need to look up from time to time to make sure you still have the big picture. A mentor is somebody that has a close enough view of you to understand your need of inspiration and encouragement, but at the same time is not so involved as to lose their objectivity of what you are about to do.
- Be your independent observer, asking uncomfortable questions and also be prepared to find the answers together with you.
The most useful mentor also provide you with tools and guidelines that might get you going even faster.
Some argue that you can do all this yourself. Set your own deadlines, get inspired by YouTube clips, TED talks, podcasts and check your business status with friends over lunch to get an outside view. If you are really committed to succeeding with your venture you should be prepared to invest in a support. You will have enough on your plate without trying to mentor yourself.
Where can you find mentors that can give you all this? That is the tricky part. You should be looking for somebody who actually done what you yourself is about to do. A guide should have done the trip before to be able to support you. Then there is the personal fit. You need a person you trust and understand your specific situation.
Sometimes people use the word mentor as anybody providing you advice over lunch once a month. This type of often high profile mentors can be found with a hefty price tag and you might think that their inspiring resume will be enough. When searching for mentors on the internet these types of mentors are the most common. But this type of mentor is not invested enough in your venture to be useful on the very hands-on journey to move from corporate employee to entrepreneur. What you are looking for is often described as mentorship programs and have specific steps that should be relevant to your specific situation. It might be for entrepreneurs who have not yet launched their business or new entrepreneurs struggling with creating a more sustainable revenue stream in their venture. The important part is the person behind these programs, there is no such thing as one size fits all in this area. The really exciting development now is that the most useful mentor for you can be found anywhere in the world. You can use Skype or Facetime to interact. For a global business, it makes very much sense to look worldwide for your support. Even if your enterprise will be more local it might give you the competitive advantage you are looking for to get a mentor doing the same thing in a perhaps more mature market.
The internet is the place to find your mentor candidates but take care of what you are searching for.
You can start by looking at interesting blog-posts, pods or videos on topics that are relevant to your particular situation. You can also post questions in forums at LinkedIn or Facebook searching for a mentor fitting your situation. Then you should identify 2 or 3 candidates to get to know better, they often offer you one free session to get to know each other. Invest time in this process. Also, remember that you will need more mentors down the line, perhaps someone on your short list doesn’t fit now but might be interesting for you to follow and use later.