One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is getting to be your own boss. You can blaze your own trail, work the way you want to work, make all your own decisions. It’s great for anyone with an independent mindset who doesn’t want to work under someone else’s rules. However, here’s a dirty little secret that remains true even in the world of business: nobody achieves anything alone. That may be a little hard to swallow for those of us who want to do everything for ourselves, but it’s true. Even though you’re calling the shots, the success of your business is still dependent on your employees, your contacts, funding, customer base… and your mentors.
Even the most brilliant business mind is inevitably going to get stuck on something, and that’s when having a mentor becomes invaluable. There’s really no replacement for experience, so finding someone in the industry you can lean on for advice is extremely vital for any young entrepreneur. Ask anyone – Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg – and they’ll all tell you how important their mentors were during their development as businessmen. Still a little skeptical? Here are a few reasons why finding a mentor should be high on your list of priorities.
Experience is Irreplaceable
As anyone who’s ever had to do tech support for their parents knows, the ability to use Google isn’t always a worthwhile replacement for actual experience. Plenty of solutions can be found online or in the pages of a textbook, but specific or complex problems aren’t always so easy to manage. That’s when having a mentor with real-world experience comes in handy. A mentor can apply their years of knowledge to any problem and help you work out a solution that’s perfect for your exact situation. Having someone trusted, reliable, and with decades of real-world experience and know-how is one of the best resources out there for a young entrepreneur.
Expanding Your Network
You probably already know this, but networking is one of the most important things anybody can do in their career, and this applies doubly to people in the business world. The contacts you make while networking can help you find opportunities, open doors for you, and introduce you to the people you need to know to help your business grow. This is another realm where having a mentor can be extremely useful.
A mentor will generally have a whole lifetime’s worth of contacts that they’re willing to lend to you, which is absolutely invaluable for any up-and-coming business owner. Instead of working your way up by meeting a guy who knows a guy who knows someone important, imagine if you could be introduced directly to the people who have real power and influence in your industry? Business is and always has been about people and connections, so getting access to someone else’s expansive network is going to do wonders for your business and future career.
Even though the life of an entrepreneur can be exciting and freeing, it’s also frequently extremely difficult. You’re going to experience setback after setback, and there will be times when things feel hopeless. A mentor can help you keep your chin up and stay focused on your path. Remember, your mentor has been through the same challenges that you’re currently struggling with. Don’t be afraid to open up and ask for moral support if you need it! We all need somebody to lean on now and again, so let your mentor be your emotional rock. Your mentor will also be able to help you get through rough patches in more active ways with advice on how to navigate through whatever it is you’re struggling with.
Invitations to Networking Events
Mentors can open doors figuratively by introducing you to their contacts, but they can also open doors a little more literally by getting you into events where you can mingle with the high rollers in your industry. Events like these are where all the best networking happens, and your mentor may be able to bring you along to the ones they’re invited to.
There you can meet all the most exciting and important members of your industry, and make the connections you need to take your business to the next level. In addition to the networking opportunities, these events also often feature some of the most interesting and knowledgeable guest speakers around. Successful entrepreneurs often seek help from motivational speakers, so the presentations at high-level industry events are worth paying attention to. You can learn a lot from the right speaker, so consider them a resource and take advantage when you can.
Stay Focused and Accountable
Even if you’re the kind of person who thrives when working independently, everyone is susceptible to losing focus or missing goals when there’s nobody to hold them accountable. A mentor can help you figure out what it is you really want to do, set reasonable and attainable goals, and keep you accountable so you don’t drift or lose focus. Everyone needs a little help staying on track now and again, and finding a mentor who’s happy to help you in that way can be a great resource. Your mentor can use their years of experience to help you figure out exactly where you should be headed and give you the steps to get there. Plus, if you ever start to stray from your path, they’ll be right there to keep you on track and remind you what you’re working towards.
If you’re just getting started in the business world, finding a mentor should be high on your list of priorities. You can find a mentor anywhere – in college, at industry events, or just through standard networking. Keep an eye out for people with years of experience with whom you feel like you have a good rapport. Remember that a mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street! Your mentor should be someone you can be friends with, and you should be friendly and courteous in return. If you can find the right mentor, the relationship can help you take your career to the next level.