Aristotle (Greek Philosopher) to Alexander the Great (Greek King).
Stephen R Covey (7 Habits of highly effective people) to Brian Tracy (motivational speaker and author).
Allen Hassenfeld (CEO Hasbro) to Marc Benioff (CEO and Founder Salesforce.com)
Harvey Specter (Senior partner on Suits) to Mike Ross (Associate attorney on Suits)
These are just some of the mentoring relationships that come to mind when I think about why everyone should at some point in their life be both the mentor and the mentee. The reason being is that there will always be one aspects of another person’s life that you cannot replicate. Experience.
The only source of knowledge is experience — Albert Einstein
To be clear experience does not mean older. It means having gained knowledge or skill in a particular field over time. This time is usually several years but doesn’t have to be. In fact some of your best mentors could be younger than you because they have achieved what you want in a shorter space of time.
A mentor can be defined as an experienced and trusted advisor. The key words for me here are trusted and experienced although they really go hand in hand. If someone has experience you trust their judgement. With that said, here are the 7 reasons I think having a mentor can help fast track your personal and business growth.
1. Experience in starting a business
When you’re starting out you theres a lot of things to think about and focusing on the right thing becomes difficult. For me it’s how to grow a business that nobody has ever heard of. If you speak to the right people they will be able to share their experience of what worked and what didn’t. Remember this doesn’t mean it will work for you but just talking to someone with experience will certainly help.
Any decision you have to make, speak to someone who’s done it before as they can tell you what they found and how to go about it. A friend said to me the other day. ‘If I knew then what I know now, I would do things a bit different’. To which I replied ‘You’ll feel exactly the same in another 5 years’. We constantly learn and experience new things every day so why not benefit from those that are 5, 10, 20 years older. They know what it’s like, listen.
2. Contacts in your industry
When trying to find a mentor, select someone that has run and grown a business similar to yours or at least been successful in business. What you define as successful is up to you. Your mentor will then be able to introduce you to contacts that may be helpful in the future. I’ve lost count of the number of people I meet and think they won’t be able to help until one day I actually need a new fridge and have a person to contact.
Not only this but a mentor has the trust of others and therefore those contacts actually listen unlike your emails which get easily dismissed. This is why PR agencies are so effective. Publications trust PR companies because they always deliver quality material. Take a look at Deconstructing PR by Conrad Egusa on Start-up marketing
A good place to get started for finding a mentor is a government scheme called mentorsme
3. Outside perspective of your company
As an entrepreneur you will know that running a business means becoming immersed in what you do. This can often mean you create business for you rather than your customers as well. A mentor has all the information about your business and can often act as a prospective customer. Bounce ideas and get feedback as much as possible.
4. It’s free
Most of the time, mentors don’t cost you anything and if they do, think about what their knowledge and experience might be worth. A 5 minute phone call with Peter Jones might be all you need to help take your business to the next level. If that call costs you £500 is it worth it? I found a great website the other day called Clarity.
5. Like minded
Have you ever really connected with someone when they have the same problem as you? Of course you do because it’s a relief that you’re not the only one struggling. I found a deep sense of relief when I saw this chart of AirBNB’s initial growth. Bear in mind the company is now worth $10BN
In 2008 AirBNB’s estimated revenue was $4000. Last year it was almost $1bn. The lesson is don’t think just because you don’t have any orders that your business doesn’t work. Any good mentor will be able to tell you that in the beginning it was really tough. Here’s the business lifecycle by Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham
Look familiar? Even with an early traffic spike from the press it doesn’t mean the hard work is over. Where do you think you are on this graph? Notice also how there is no time on here. That’s because there is no formula for how long it will take for your business to grow. What I will say is that if after 6 months you’re still in selling to new customers then it’s probably viable and the wiggles of false hope may not be far off.
6. Recipe for Success
Although this may seem like a myth, isn’t it strange how business people when they know how to make a business work can seem to do it over and over again? You could argue that money makes money and therefore it’s easier. This is true but what if you spent all of that money of the wrong thing? When you’ve grown a business from the ground up you are able to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Its the same reason the panel of dragons den constantly say ‘what’s to stop me start-up up this same idea, I have the resources’. It’s because regardless of the business being pitched, all of them are very at their simplest.
Take something you have and exchange it for something your customer has. This ‘exchange’ is usually money.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of a mentor is their ability to keep you motivated. It’s easy to quit and go get a job. Anything worth doing will be an uphill battle but the biggest difference between those that are successful and those that aren’t is grit and determination so stick in there.
When you’re looking for a mentor choose someone who’s life you’d like to have. It might be Bill gates, it might be David Beckham it could be Richard Branson. From here work backwards from those that aren’t extremely wealthy for obvious reasons. For example if I could choose, one of my mentors would be Elon Musk. This is because Elon is extreme business minded (PayPal, Space X and Tesla) but when you dig deeper it’s apparent that these businesses have been started to radically change how the world works.
Allen Hassenfeld told Marc Benioff to ‘incorporate philanthropy’ into his business Salesforce.com. They have pioneered the 1/1/1/ model.
Lesson Learnt: Measure conversion rates to understand what’s working.