For most entrepreneurs, the early years are the hardest years. Like any career path, you may feel excited, but overwhelmed in the beginning. The learning curve is steep and for some, your confidence may be shaky. Unlike traditional fields, entrepreneurship offers even less structure and guidance that one could turn to, despite more interest in recent years. But whether you jump right in or spend time testing the waters, every young entrepreneur needs a mentor. While, ultimately, your product and business intelligence lead to the growth of your company, a mentor can influence how much you grow, and, sometimes, if you reach success in the first place.
But is finding a mentor the right thing for you? And if so, how can you find one? On a recent episode of Making Bank, guest Jack Lee Matthews speaks on what he learned about mentors in his entrepreneurial journey. Keep reading to discover what he has to say on these questions.
What a Mentor Can Do for You
Perhaps, you’ve got a great idea and you’re ready to start your company. You are extremely ambitious, have done a lot of research, and may feel that while a mentor would be nice, you don’t necessarily need one. You want to focus on building your business, not divert time away from it to look for a mentor. You may even be itching to get this company founded and a mentor feels like additional work.
However, a mentor can help you grow faster and better. It may feel counter-intuitive but putting in the extra time now can save you much more time later. While you will have to learn by trial and error at some point, a mentor can reduce the amount of time you spend in the phase. Through their own experiences and knowledge, they can point to what works and what doesn’t. While you don’t need to follow every word they say religiously, they may be able to teach you a valuable lesson in an afternoon instead of you learning it by trying and failing over the course of six months. Matthews says, “Mentors allow you to expedient your process and avoid mistakes.”
A mentor can aid you in other areas imperative to your success. For example, if mentors don’t have direct experience with a path you want to take, they can point you to someone who does. They can help you build connections in your field and make important introductions that help push you forward.
In addition to connections and lessons, a good mentor can be there for you mentally. A mentor that is invested in not just your company but you as a person will reach out and make sure that you are doing okay through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Matthews says, “I think that’s another reason why you do need mentors is because you need somebody just to check in with you and say, ‘Hey, how you doing this week? What’s going on?’”
While you may feel extremely ambitious and want to do it all on your own, that mentality can cause you to burn out. Feeling confident is a great attribute as an entrepreneur, but it’s important to be mindful that you aren’t making decisions solely because of your pride. Ultimately, the success of your company is the end goal, and having a little help getting there is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, every entrepreneur, even the most established, have or had at one point, someone they can look up to, someone to guide them.
Finding Mentors and Communities
Say, you’re starting your business and you’re open to mentorship—how do you go about finding one? While we don’t have control over where we are from, we can control where we are heading. On this matter, Matthews says, “I was from a small town, a very small town—one stoplight—in North Carolina. And I knew that I wanted to go do something with my life. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I moved to L.A. and I moved out of my comfort zone. Got completely out of my comfort zone and that’s where the magic really happens.”
Although this journey was specific to him, Matthews points to an important idea. He realized that his town couldn’t help him further his career in the way he wanted, so he changed his setting. He gravitated towards where entrepreneurship was encouraged. While you don’t need move across country to find success, you can make an effort to enter spheres of influence in your field.
The “right” circles might be changing location, or it could be as simple as volunteering at an organization or joining a social club that focuses on entrepreneurship. By getting involved in spheres of your interest, you may find surprising success. Spend a little time doing research in your area and go after the programs around you. When you surround yourself with people who share this entrepreneurial spirit, you can build connections, become inspired, and receive guidance. You may not find an individual mentor, but you’ll be supported by a community of like-minded people who can help you in your journey.
Say, it’s not feasible for you to change your location and your area doesn’t offer any entrepreneurial programs or communities to join. You may feel like there aren’t any options to find mentorship and that you are alone in this interest. Matthews encourages you to look to mentors that you can’t meet. Whether it’s discovering an online forum or dissecting one of the thousands of entrepreneurial books in Barnes & Noble, don’t be afraid to find mentorship in the concepts others have published. Matthews and others have referenced Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill as fundamental to their understanding of business.
Alongside Hill, there are so many books, articles, podcasts, and videos giving out advice on entrepreneurship. The guidance is out there, and all you have to do is go after it.