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The Startup Journey: Do I Need A Mentor?

You hear a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners talking about their mentors and how they’ve helped them get through tough times or find solutions to challenges. So what’s the deal with them and do you need one?

Well, firstly let’s look at why you want a mentor. Is it because you’re lacking knowledge in a particular area? Or is it a lack of confidence? Perhaps you’re looking for a motivator? Maybe you need a sounding board to throw ideas around with or do you need inspiration or a different perspective?

Motivations for a Mentor

The motivations behind a mentor are important because it helps you pinpoint what you actually need. Even if Deborah Meaden begged to be your mentor, she isn’t going to be able to help if you don’t know where you’re stuck or what you want to achieve.

Secondly, you need to look at the stage your business is at. Have you just started out? Are you a few years in? Maybe you’re quite established but are now unsure which way to turn to push the business forward. These all help to decipher which way to turn. There may be financial obligations to employ a mentor - they are providing a valuable service after all and may wish to be compensated for it. Are you willing to budget for that just yet?

The good news is that there are plenty of people out there who are experiencing or have experienced everything you’re going through right now, and more importantly are willing to help. Us humans are social beings and we learn from each other. It’s how skills have been passed on and evolved through time.

Asking for Support

And there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. It isn’t a weakness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It shows that you want to grow and you have identified a gap preventing you from growing.

As you work your business up you’ll meet a lot of different people and build up a valuable network who will be able to provide insight and advice along the way. Don’t miss those opportunities. It will also help you to shape your missing edges as you go.

Unless you have someone specific in mind, to start with, it may be better to start with a group of sense checkers or sounding boards to help you develop your ideas or processes and then start to branch out.

Even if it is friends or family members who know nothing about your business or industry. Even if they give you terrible advice, it’ll help formulate in your mind what you need to do or how something sounds out loud.

Looking for a mentor is not something you can force but it should be something that you actively look to have. It doesn’t have to be one person, it could be several but it’s important that you don’t keep your worries to yourself and you look to enhance your business with your research.

You may find that what you need is a business partner or indeed, an employee with a particular skill set. Maybe it's an investor who commits time to help develop your business through connections or knowledge, not just finance.

Turn to your network, industry communities or peers and mull over with them what you're thinking. Sometimes it just helps to sound it out aloud for you to see what the solution is. Don't stay quiet though, you'll be surprised how interested people are and how they can help.

Do you have a mentor or did you find one useful when you were starting out? Perhaps you have another solution to making informed decisions when growing a business? Do share them with the group.

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