Starting a business is an exciting, yet daunting task. It requires passion, hard work (grit), humility, and a market-validated, unique idea to get it off the ground. While it’s important to believe in your own abilities, having a mentor can actually protect and build your confidence as you navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. The right mentor will be a wellspring of connections, guidance, support, and a sounding board for your ideas as well as your stresses.
At RevRoad, we value mentors in a huge way. In fact, at times they have made all the difference between startups falling stagnant and surging to profitability. In this article, we will explore the importance of finding a good mentor and building a strong relationship with them alongside your growing startup.
What Makes Someone a Mentor?
A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor who provides guidance and support to someone less experienced. In the context of entrepreneurship, a mentor is someone who has already gone through the process of starting and building a business and can provide insights and advice on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Many of our mentors have started and exited substantial companies, but regardless of whether your mentor has the bank account to show for it, what’s most important is a wealth and diversity of experiences to draw from, which will help steer the ship as you grow your company from napkin to NASDAQ.
Don’t be stressed by the grand introduction, however; great mentors can come from almost anywhere: a friend, a colleague, or someone you’ve met through networking.
Why is a Mentor Important?
Mentors are a valuable lifeline to founders who you normally see venturing into uncharted waters on the daily. While entrepreneurs have a reputation for being scrappy and adaptable, sometimes it takes outside experience, perspective, and other resources to really move the needle. Here are some of the reasons why having a mentor is important:
- Experience – Veteran mentors have already gone through the process of starting and building a business themselves, and so they’ve certainly experienced many of the same challenges and obstacles that their mentee brings to them. Try to find a mentor that matches at least one of your specific needs or struggles; for example, one of our mentors, Spencer Hewlett, former CFO of Maverik, could help bolster your company’s financial well-being with his vast array of knowledge. The “firsthand” nature of lived experience like this makes a mentor’s advice more trustworthy and actionable compared to simply asking your loving mother for business tips.
- Perspective – Since mentors don’t normally have financial ties to the success of their mentee’s business, they can provide a more objective point of view on tough startup situations. This is especially important if emotions have begun to cloud the entrepreneur’s thinking. As many of us know, it’s hard to keep a clear head when facing brand new challenges and your company is on the line.
- Networking – A mentor can help you expand your network and introduce you to other entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts. If you feel like too many doors are closed to you, having a mentor could be the key to opening opportunities you never thought possible, whether that be to new partners, investors, or even paying customers.
- Accountability – Many mentors are known for (and even revered for) their candor, keeping track of their mentee’s goals and holding them accountable, pushing them to stay on track even when it’s uncomfortable. We probably all know one entrepreneur who has a penchant for siloing themselves from outside feedback—never experiencing the benefits of constructive criticism. Get them a mentor, stat!
- Support – Starting and running a business is stressful and overwhelming at times, but a mentor can be there with emotional support and encouragement in the moments you need it most. They might not be registered, but they do frequently take on the role of therapist. 😆
How Can I Find a Mentor?
Finding a compatible mentor for you may seem like a difficult task, but it’s easier than you think. Here are four approaches you should consider when starting your search.
- Network – Attend events and meetups related to your industry or business. Aside from meeting potential mentors themselves, this is also a great way to meet other entrepreneurs who could introduce you to even more options.
- Social Media – Use social media to search for and break the ice with potential mentors. Follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn and engage with their content to put yourself on their radar and build a relationship with them over time. LinkedIn in particular is a useful tool when searching for mentors. Filter results by industry, job titles, and more; browse mutual connections; then once you’ve found a good match, reach out and ask them for a phone call, coffee, or even lunch!
- Incubators and Accelerators – Many startup incubators and accelerators offer mentorship programs for their participants (see RevRoad’s program here). If you want a more structured mentorship process with well-vetted options, you should consider applying to get these exclusive benefits.
Want more tips and tricks? Check out our RevUniversity episode with Tyler Richards who dove deep into mentor search and what works well—as well as what doesn’t.
The Entrepreneur’s Unseen Superpower
In conclusion, many entrepreneurs underestimate the impact that a caring mentor can make in the health of their company (and their own mental health as well!). Not only is finding the right mentor within reach for most founders—when it’s done right, the potential benefits far outway the effort. Personally, I have found the mentors in my life made the most impact when they pinpointed my own professional strengths and weaknesses, then helped me fill in those gaps.
Whether you’d consider yourself an entrepreneur or not, I encourage you to seek out mentors who you can add to your circle. Focus on building a trusting relationship, listen carefully to their advice, and don’t be afraid to lean on their expertise when the going gets tough. So what are you waiting for? Access to this entrepreneurship superpower is just a click or a phone call away.
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