Starting a business is tough and it can feel like so many odds are stacked against you. Where can you find seed investors? And how can you manage the finances in a way that will help you use funds efficiently? Beyond that, what about other roadblocks you may face, such as dealing with a product that doesn’t sell?
Sure, you can learn as you go from friends, family, acquaintances and even by searching for information online, but this will only provide minimal insight. While you can research your industry and receive insights on tactics you’ve never thought of trying, in most cases it’s more effective to have someone help you directly using their expert knowledge.
Here’s where a business mentor comes in: this person can share their wisdom and years of experience to provide you specific insights on an ongoing basis that can have a major impact on your long-term business growth. In other words, receiving specific guidance from a business mentor is far more beneficial than generic business advice you’ll get from online sources or books.
What is a Mentor?
A business mentor is someone who will have more experience being an entrepreneur or running a business than you have. Typically, it’s someone who has a few more years under their belt than you and someone who knows how to navigate the unexpected obstacles of business startups. This person serves as a trusted advisor and confidante over a longer period of time which provides stability.
In many cases, a mentor won’t charge you for their time.
Why Would Someone Mentor Me For Free?
While it may sound too good to be true, most, business mentors are free. Mentors desire to give back to their community. They see it as a way to make a direct impact to their mentees and to pay it forward in their community.
Interestingly, mentorship is not a one-sided relationship. In fact, mentors can benefit just as much from the relationship as you do. Perhaps this person wants more insights into the startup scene, or they want to understand what new entrepreneurs are facing now.
There are also mentors who want to develop their skills as a teacher, consultant, manager or strategist, and mentoring allows them a great way to do that. However, that doesn’t discount the fact that your mentor wants to help and be able to learn new strategies, tactics and ideas from you.
To go back to the concept of paying it forward, mentorships benefit the startup community in Houston overall.
The startup community as a whole is more informed and less likely to make mistakes that could result in severe consequences. Mentorship provides more collaboration resulting in everyone thriving.
Benefits or Seeking Mentorship
Not only will mentorship benefit your entrepreneurial career as a whole, but here are also even more reasons why mentorship is important for entrepreneurs.
You’ll Feel Less Alone
Whether you are launching your business, or you have already launched, there won’t be anyone you can turn to for advice as readily as a mentor. For example, when you had a 9 to 5 job, you could look to your supervisor or boss when you needed more direction.
A mentor provides an immediate sounding board when facing unexpected challenges. In addition, you can lean on them for emotional support when things get tough. They have been in your shoes and what you’re up against, and that alone can be priceless in a daunting process.
Receive Expert Feedback
Like we alluded to above, one of the biggest benefits to having a business mentor is that you can get expert feedback — why not learn from someone’s successes and mistakes?
While it may be beneficial to have a mentor that’s directly involved in your industry, this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as they’re an entrepreneur, you’ll most likely find yourself facing very similar challenges.
- Understanding the startup funding process
- How to manage cash flow challenges
- Where to expand or grow your business network
- Where to learn about the latest developments in trends or technology
Ultimately, a mentor will share the lessons they’ve learned, to help you avoid the same pitfalls which can save money and support survival and growth. You will move on more quickly from challenges.
Expand Your Network
Mentors typically possess a network of valuable contacts due to their notable business experience.
A mentor with access to a powerful network means that you could easily have access to it as well. If you think about it, someone is more likely to do business with someone or speak to them if they’ve been recommended by someone they trust — in this case your mentor.
Perhaps your mentor is willing to introduce you to someone who’ll end up investing in your startup, or offer you access to insights from someone directly in your industry. You never know what might happen but having the potential to a valuable network will help open much more doors for you.
Feel More Motivated
Feeling less alone as a business owner means that you can pick yourself up and keep going. Feeling discouraged is normal and to be expected as an entrepreneur. Having a mentor means that if you need encouragement, that person will be there for you.
A business mentor can confirm what you’re experiencing is temporary or share resources to keep you motivated on your entrepreneurial journey. This type of encouragement can serve as a catalyst to keep taking those hard steps needed to reach milestones you thought were impossible before.
How to Look For a Mentor
Here are a few ideas if you’re unsure of where you can start your search:
- Look to your own network – what better place to start than to ask people you already know? Don’t discount the connections your friends, family and former colleagues have because you never know if they’ll introduce you to your new mentor.
- Find contacts within the Houston startup community – Do an online search to see where they hang out and be straightforward about the fact that you’re seeking a mentor. Be specific about what you’re looking for and what industry you’re in.
- Join an incubator or accelerator – Places like the Houston Innovation Hub can help you find a mentor. It could even be as simple as showing up and asking for resources or guidance.
- Head to meetups – Search places like Meetup.com or other local meetups to meet as many people as you can. You’ll want to target business related meetups, though it doesn’t have to be specific to the startup community.
- Utilize your alumni network – Look at your college’s business division and you could find an entrepreneur center or mentorship program. It could even be as simple as reaching out to the alumni association or speaking with a professor.
- Join a professional organization – These groups are specifically designed to help further a particular industry, and that could include mentoring those who are just starting out.
- Reach out directly to someone you’ve admired for years – The worst someone can say is no, right?
- Look to your local SBA – Programs like SCORE or ones through the U.S. Small Business Association can help you with business and financial planning, plus other types of advice.
Look to the Long Term
A good business mentor has no other motive than to help you thrive. They understand that to help startups and the community as a whole, entrepreneurs like you need all the support and guidance they can get.
As your relationship with your mentor develops over time, you’ll gain trust and a strong relationship. As they become more familiar with your business you might be surprised at how fast success will follow.
Of course, creating this trust and seeking a business mentor isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, think of a mentoring relationship as something you want to strive for long term. You also want to show your future mentor that you’re serious about being successful in your industry by putting in the time and effort required to do so. That way, your relationship will thrive and both of you can receive far reaching benefits.
If it’s not already obvious, having a mentor has immense potential for returns and the risk of having one is mostly non-existent (except maybe the time it’ll take to develop a relationship). As in, there’s not much you have to lose, so why not start your search for a mentor?