29 April 2021|Latest Posts, Psychology
While it gets easier to start a business, becoming a successful business owner is something that takes hard work and dedication. There is no doubt that you’ll run into problems that you’ll have to overcome, people that you don’t get along with and even some who want to see you fail. Staying motivated throughout all of this and mitigating any issues is often easier when you have someone to guide you through your journey and give you a helping hand when you need it. The advice of an experienced entrepreneur is often something that many don’t take advantage of and it can lead to their struggling in the near future.
A mentorship is often an invaluable connection made between two or more people. From this, both parties are able to learn new things and better themselves in the process. This will help to create more success for everyone involved and you’ll be able to make a good friend during your time together.
Finding a mentor that’s right for you
A mentor can come in a number of forms with different levels of knowledge in different areas of business. With that in mind, it can be hard to find the right person to mentor you through your journey. You and your mentor need to be compatible and they need to really understand the industry that you’re working in so that you can both be as effective as possible.
1. Industry knowledge
A mentor needs to be able to adapt and learn quickly, possibly more so than you as the mentoree/ protégé. This is because they need to know just as much if not more about your industry in order to be as effective as possible and offer the best advice.
Finding someone who has already been successful within your industry can make it tricky and often limits your options. If they’re doing the same work as you or have a business that operates in the same verticals, they’re less likely to be open to mentoring you.
2. Business experience
While this might seem obvious, finding a mentor with good business experience and a successful portfolio is important. Whether you’re paying them or not the purpose of a mentor is to instil their knowledge into you and if they’ve never been able to find success themselves, they’re properly not worth it.
One of the biggest areas that a mentor is really useful is when trying to mitigate issues. Every business and business owner is going to run into a number of issues whether they’re just a start-up, an aspiring entrepreneur or even a somewhat established business owner looking to branch out. With that in mind, finding someone who can help you mitigate the issues that you might run into will offer a smooth, more efficient journey. They’ll also be able to guide you through overcoming the issue that you can’t mitigate and adapt to the changes. However, if the mentor you have in mind doesn’t really have any of this expertise, they’re only going to waste your time.
3. Personal compatibility
Personal compatibility is, I would say, one of the most, if not the most important part of finding a mentor. Looking for someone that you’re able to get along with and connect with on a personal and professional level is likely to accelerate your efforts in becoming a successful business owner.
This is one of the most overlooked elements of finding and it can be damaging. If, for example, your mentor has fantastic knowledge of your industry and a portfolio of successful businesses there is definitely a lot to learn from them. However, if you find that your personalities clash a lot, you’re less likely to listen to their advice and that could become counterproductive to your other efforts. If you get along with your mentor and there is a good level of personal compatibility, I feel that it will become a much more synergistic relationship.
What do the experts say about looking for a mentor?
The best advice you can get is from someone who has been through the process and can speak from experience. However, it’s also important to get that advice from a variety of sources which is why we’ve asked a few business owners about their mentors and the journey that they embarked on together.
We asked Richard Yeo, director of Advanced Commercial Interiors to tell us a little bit about what he looked for in a mentor. And he told us that “finding the right mentor can be tricky, of course, there are so many people out there and some of them can turn out to be a bit of a con. When looking for my mentor, I wanted to know why they would be willing to help me. You can often get a good feeling as to whether they’re in it for personal gain and money, or whether they actually enjoy it and want to help people create something for themselves.” So, looking for genuine people that are actually here to help you is a really valuable way to build a network around you and find a mentor.
When we asked Lee Jackson of Lee Jackson Air Conditioning about his mentor experiences, he explained that “it can take a little longer than you think. It’s important to network with people as a business owner because in doing so, you meet so many people and this can speed up the process. However, you must take into account that not everyone wants to help others. Some people would rather put you down so that they can get up. Take your time and don’t rush to the first person you think of, this is an important decision.”
Making the ask
Asking someone to be your mentor can be one of the hardest parts of the whole thing. You might have the perfect person in mind but when you ask them, they might say no. Mentoring isn’t for everyone, some people don’t have the time while others might not feel comfortable doing it. Whatever the case, it’s important to respect their decisions rather than trying to convince them over and over again.
In an ideal situation, you would already know your potential mentor pretty well. This gives you a bit of an edge and can offer insight into the level of personal compatibility between you. With that in mind, here is a brief plan for you to follow and adapt so that you know the basics!
- Email, text or call – My advice would be to set up a bit of an informal meeting or even a chat over coffee. This way, you can broach the subject and explore the possibilities with your potential mentor before setting anything in stone.
- Have a chat/meeting – During your meeting make sure to outline what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. This way you’ll both have a good understanding of what the other is interested in getting out of this experience.
- Let them reflect and assess – Now, this is a relatively big ask and so both parties should have some time to reflect on the possibilities and organise their thoughts. In doing this, you’ll be able to come back to one another prepared and ready.
- Meet again to iron out the details – This is the make or braking of the mentorship. If they agree to help you, great news! Now is the time to iron out the details and get an understanding of how you’d both like to proceed.
While we’ve given you a basic action plan to adapt and follow above, we also wanted to get a few words from the experts again. They’re able to offer advice based on their experiences and help you to understand the right way to approach the situation.
Andy King, director of national car selling site Jamjar.com said “the asking part of the process can be a daunting one. You‘re nervous, you don’t know what to say and you’re really hoping they say yes. So, just be yourself and appreciate that if they do say no, it’s not always your fault. They may not be interested in the idea of a mentorship and so don’t take any form of rejection too personally.”
John MacMahon from security giant; Re:sure Security told us that he “was hesitant to actually go ahead and ask someone to become my mentor, it wasn’t something that I saw benefit in for a start. But, as with business, innovation is important and so embarking on a mentorship journey early in my career really helped me. I asked someone that didn’t work for my company and barely even know me. I think that this made it easier for the both of us because there were no false words or sugar-coated conversations, we were open and honest with each other at all times. So, my advice is; don’t be afraid to ask someone that you don’t really know, they might be the better choice for you.”
So, after that quick guide to creating a mentorship as an aspiring business owner, there are a few key takeaways. Making sure that you find the right person to mentor you is a key part of the planning process, knowing a little bit about their background and what makes them a good mentor should be one of your first ports of call. This should give you a better chance of succeeding in the long run. What’s more, you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself around your mentor, you should be comfortable and open with them to get the best outcome.
About the Author
Seb Dean, Director, Imaginaire (https://www.imaginaire.co.uk)
Seb has been building businesses from scratch for years now and loves every second of it. Throughout his career, Seb has had a few mentors both formal and informal and they’ve been pivotal to his success as an entrepreneur. Seb has even become a mentor himself when hiring his first member of staff, taking them under his wing and showing them the ropes of the business world.