Mentorship is becoming more and more accessible and recognised within the entrepreneurial circle these days and that’s because, at last, we understand the importance and impact a mentor can have on young aspiring entrepreneurs. Starting up is a long process full of highs and lows. 90% of businesses fail. I have failed many times in business, and each failure taught me a valuable lesson and allowed me to hone my knowledge and learn from my mistakes. They set me on the right path and gave me the grounding I needed to succeed. The most important thing now, is to share those lessons of failure with entrepreneurs and SMEs in order to try and steer them away from the same pitfalls and that’s why I’m always championing mentorship.
Sharing my own journey and explaining how as my mentor, my father helped sculpt my future success is always a great, rewarding experience so last week I attended an event where I spoke to would-be entrepreneurs about what really makes the perfect mentor.
Firstly, I advise anybody seeking a mentor to look for somebody who can really understand what you’re going through – there’s no point starting off by speaking to someone twice your age with 20 years corporate experience because they won’t be able to immediately recognise your struggles. Instead, look for someone of a similar age who has taken a similar path and can help you avoid the mistakes they made. Remember, finding someone you actually relate to and who shares your same passions is essential, without these similarities you’re just wasting each other’s time.
Secondly, look for someone who knows your sector inside out. You want to get as much as you can out of your mentor and the best way to do this is by ensuring they have expert knowledge in your chosen sector and can point you in the right direction.
As well as this, find somebody who can potentially open some doors for you, somebody with contacts that could help you progress – take advantage of everything your mentor has to offer. And don’t forget, your perfect mentor could be anybody. Sometimes you need take a good look around you, your mentor could be a parent, cousin, uncle, brother, friend, colleague, competitor – the list goes on! Don’t underestimate your options.
It is important to remember that a mentor won't necessarily remove all the obstacles your business faces – but they can certainly show you a better route to get to where you need to go.
Mentoring isn’t an easy thing to do and shouldn’t be seen as a panacea, more as a means to try and help entrepreneurs to make the right decisions at those crucial moments in the life of a business. The experience is a constant learning path. Everyone needs a helping hand, no matter who you are.
I have been privileged in my previous role as Chairman of the government-backed Start Up Loans Company to effectively pass some of my knowledge to some incredible entrepreneurs. It has given me the opportunity to impart some of these invaluable lessons and reach, in a very direct fashion, the entrepreneurs and business minds of tomorrow.
With my personal experience as a passionate entrepreneur, being able to share my knowledge with the next generation of entrepreneurs is really important to me because what’s the point in possessing it all if I’m not helping others? Mentors can help guide and nurture you, sharing wisdom you’ll never forget. For me, this was my father’s one-liner – “Observe the masses and do the opposite” – advice which still resonates with me today.
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