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There are countless business owners who credit their success to the mentors who have helped them get to where they are now. Research shows that 92% of small businesses actually credit a great deal of their success to mentoring relationships, calling them “vital.” While “mentorship” can seem like a buzzword sometimes, and finding a mentor can be an ambiguous and arduous process, entrepreneurs can reframe the daunting task as simply finding someone who has been in their shoes before. Mentors don’t have to be older or “wiser,” but they should be able to provide some foresight based on their experiences, and in many cases, provide some connections too.
With the rise of so many entrepreneurial communities and online resources, fewer entrepreneurs are making their mentor searches a top priority. However, these fascinating stories illustrate the true power of mentorship. Mentors can ensure you’re in the right place at the right time, give you a leg up where the other beginners are still learning and propel you and your business forward in ways that could change your life.
Related: 4 Benefits of Finding a Mentor
They can fill in the gaps of what you don’t know
When beginning your business journey, there’s so much that you don’t know — and there’s so little time to learn it all. This leaves many entrepreneurs desperate to learn everything they can on their own, through experience, books or online courses. With limited initial startup capital, very few entrepreneurs can just hire someone to show them the ropes. This is where mentors can come in handy.
Take it from Brandon Harvey, a world-renowned photographer who shoots for UNICEF, Paramount, ABC Family and more. While he always thrived on the artistic front with his photography talent, he had a lot of questions about making it in the business world. So, he has much to thank his mentor, Mike McDonald, for. He shared in an interview with Grasshopper that “Mike’s wisdom within the business world and understanding of social justice is a huge asset as I work within this new innovative field … Having a mentor has made me far more effective in my work life and far more emotionally healthy in my personal life.”
This is also critical if you are forging ahead in new industries. For example, perhaps your copywriting service has solely been for small businesses to date, but now you’re expanding to help in the medical field with doctors’ websites. Having a mentor who is in this industry can help a great deal, even if you’re far from the beginning stages of your business.
They can introduce you to the right people
The power of networking in entrepreneurship can’t be understated, and you never know the value of who you meet. Oftentimes, the web of connections that spans out from networking is what brings in new opportunities. Mentors can loop you into these networks, introducing you to those that they know, but also sharing your name and details about your company within their own networking practices.
Related: 10 Places to Find Mentors and Advisors for Entrepreneurs
Millionaire tech investor Nicolas Saint-Jacques was a high school dropout when he first met his mentor at a cafe in Montreal. Through a series of introductions and connections, Saint-Jacques got his first real entrepreneurial start in network marketing, which eventually led to his current career in cryptocurrency trading. “You never know when you’re going to meet someone who can totally change the trajectory of your career,” explained Saint-Jacques. “The right mentor can open more doors for you with a single email or a single event invitation than you could open on your own over years of hard work. That’s why I recommend to all entrepreneurs to seek out a mentor.”
They can support your research and work with their own
There are many famous mentor and mentee duos who prove that when you bring two intelligent minds together, magic can happen. Top of the list are Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg, who would take walks together, during which Jobs would offer insights about Facebook. When Jobs passed, Zuckerberg’s public tribute to his departed mentor stated, “Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world.” The similarities between their careers and businesses allude to the power of a mentor who has made a name for himself or herself in your field.
Another famous duo is Christian Dior and Yves Saint-Laurent. The two designer brands could now be considered rivals, but many don’t know that Saint-Laurent actually was Dior’s personal assistant before he began his own brand. Saint-Laurent has said of the relationship that “[Dior] taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.”
Related: 6 Factors You Must Consider When Choosing a Mentor
Finding a mentor
As for finding a mentor, lean again on your network. Consider taking those you admire in your industry, field or network to coffee to chat. Remember that mentors get just as much from the mentorship relationship as you do — because they get to share all they’ve learned and support your vision as it comes to fruition. This relationship dynamic can also help them comprehend all they’ve learned over their own careers, and it may even inspire some new ideas or action.
Many of these relationship dynamics happen organically, rather than as a type of formal request to be one’s “mentee” — but keep this truth in mind: You get what you give. You have something to give potential mentors in the same way that they have something to give to you. Show up with this intention to connect and serve, and these impactful, life-changing relationships are sure to be built.