Bill Gates. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Tony Hsieh.
As entrepreneurs, we find their stories equally inspiring and intimidating. Like every other business owner with a dream, they started at the bottom. So how did they get to the top? The answer: they had help from people who’d been there before — mentors they trusted to show them the ropes, answer the questions and guide them towards the right decisions.
Our society recognizes the value of education, but there are few educational opportunities for entrepreneurs that speak directly to their unique needs (ie: all the intangible skills it takes to run a business, like reading people in a meeting, negotiating and weeding through different people and talents to find just the right one). Mentoring is the closest thing we have, and it’s as important today as ever.
The “pay it forward” mentality
Mentors are people who made it to the top and feel an obligation to show others the way. It’s a rewarding relationship for both parties. The mentor has the opportunity to make a real, positive difference in the lives of others, while the mentee gets a bridge across the toughest portion of the entrepreneurial journey.
By taking on a mentor, you gain a sounding board to bounce ideas off of — someone with the skills and knowledge to provide useful, insightful opinions about those ideas. It’s an incredible asset to any entrepreneur.
Selecting a mentor
Mentors aren’t prizes to be won. They’re matches to be made. Just because you admire someone as a business owner doesn’t mean they’re right for you. Here are the three basics:
- Energy: Look for a mentor who shares your enthusiasm.
- Belief: Find someone who shares your values.
- Relationship: Criticism is an essential part of learning so you want a person whose feedback style gels with yours.
If you’re an entrepreneur with big dreams, take the time to cultivate a relationship with a quality mentor and get the experience you need before you need it.