In the third part of my series, I discussed how to build a team around you to help you succeed. In this installment, I am talking about how finding the right mentors is vital to helping you grow your business.
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of ideas about what you want to do and what you want your business to be. And if you’re an experienced hand at running a business, you might already have a lot of knowledge about the ins and outs of getting a startup off the ground. But none of us knows everything, and having outside voices to inform, guide, and advise is helpful no matter who you are.
Finding the right mentors can seem like a challenge; many of us don’t like asking for help to begin with, and asking someone to be on your advisory board or to lend an ear for your problems and complaints feels like a big ask. But often advisors are willing to lend their help and expertise to others because they once had people who were willing to do the same for them. And having advisors in place, from the start, is key to avoiding mistakes and maintaining your sanity.
If you are a solo entrepreneur, you are without a peer at your company, whether that be because you sit alone atop the organizational pyramid or because you are a company of one. High-level problems and decisions can weigh heavily on you if carried alone, and not having someone to discuss them with can lead to potentially myopic decisions. While you alone are the final decision maker, having input and perspective from your advisors and mentors can offer more information and differing perspectives to inform that decision.
What advisors bring to the table is their own experience and lessons learned from their own time as an early stage entrepreneur. You can take that knowledge and experience and avoid those same mistakes without having to bear the cost yourself. Finding advisors and mentors from the same field as your own is great, but a broad base of advisors from different fields can offer valuable insights as well. Plus, new outside perspectives might even prove useful in examining challenges and rethinking the industry status quo.
Equally valuable is the new contacts and relationships that you can cultivate through your advisory council. If you’re looking to partner with another company, find a vendor to meet needs that you can’t internally, or looking for introductions to get your foot in the door somewhere, having experienced advisors with an extensive network can be invaluable. A cold email can be a shot in the dark that might not even make it to the right person, but an introduction from a mutual acquaintance offers a far better chance of opening up a productive dialogue.
Advisors can also offer you the direct and necessary feedback that you can’t get elsewhere. It can be difficult to get a fair and objective opinion on something related to your business from those who might be too close to you or the situation; either they’ re part of the day-to-day decision-making process or they’re a close friend or family member worried about having to say something critical. While you might have a solid and long-standing relationship with those you count as advisors and mentors, you ultimately want them to tell you what you need to hear, even if it might not be what you want to hear. You want them to be familiar with your company enough to understand what you’re trying to do, while still maintaining the necessary distance to offer their objectivity.