The Top 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make With Mentors
February 19, 2015
By Anita Campbell
A business mentor is someone with a lot more experience who is willing to teach you what they know.
But there are common persistent mistakes that entrepreneurs make when consulting a mentor. Let’s examine each one, and find out ways you can avoid falling into the same trap.
Mistake 1: Choosing an unenthusiastic mentor
Not everyone will be knowledgeable about your industry or even understand your business – especially if it’s something completely new. Think twice about engaging with a mentor who doesn’t seem interested in your vision.
Instead, choose someone who displays clear enthusiasm in what you are trying to achieve. You don’t necessarily want someone to gush about your business, and you do need a mentor who will point out issues. But there’s a difference between a mentor who delivers tough love – versus someone who squelches your dreams.
Mistake 2: Setting expectations too low
Everyone who goes into business for themselves has an idol. Maybe it is Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Richard Branson?
Don’t expect a mentor to be a billionaire like Branson or Gates. But do set your sights on someone you look up to and reach out to that person.
The worst he or she can do is say no, and what have you really lost? A few hours of your time? But then again, the person might say yes!
Mistake 3: Expecting your mentor to do your work
A mentor is not an unpaid employee or contractor. A good mentor will be extremely busy with his or her own business matters. He or she will make time for you, but will lose patience if you try to palm off your workload. If your mentor is a consultant, attorney, accountant, etc., don’t expect the mentor to perform those services for your company without compensation.
Mistake 4: Not accepting input
Once you decide to go into business for yourself, you need an open mind and a thick skin. People will not always agree with you, and in order to make changes, you have to be willing and able to accept constructive feedback. Freaking out when someone criticizes your business is not going to endear you to your mentor.
So sit back, take a deep breath, and invite your mentor to take a no-holds-barred approach to your business. Invite input, no matter how much “tough love” you’re getting. Then take that input to make your company better.
Mistake 5: Doing all the talking
It can be easy for you to launch into talking about your aims, ambitions, and ways of doing things – and never come up for air. But you are not going to learn anything if you don’t allow the mentor to speak and impart his or her wisdom. Remember to ask questions, listen and take copious notes.
Mistake 6: Worrying about secrets
You may feel sensitive about your business secrets. And in some cases, the need for secrecy may be justified, such as in the case of patentable inventions.
If you truly feel you have a patentable invention or trade secret, talk with an attorney about what you need to do to protect your rights, including asking the mentor to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Unless your attorney tells you it involves something requiring extreme confidentiality for legal reasons, open up so you can get value out of the relationship with your mentor.
Mistake 7: Being too persistent and needy
Mentors are busy people, with schedules as long as your arm.
That is why constantly bombarding them with phone messages, emails, and text messages; asking constant questions; and demanding more and more of their time is going to lead very quickly to you and the mentor parting company.
So take a chill pill, keep all your questions written down for your next mentoring session, and give your mentor the space to get on with his or her business and life. Be a respectful colleague – not a stalker.
Having a business mentor can have big positive advantages for the future evolution of your company – if it is done properly. Hopefully, the seven common issues outlined here will help you from falling into the same trap as other entrepreneurs and lead to a fruitful mentorship relationship.
About the Author: My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.
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