As an entrepreneur, one of the more rewarding aspects of owning a business is taking on challenges. Face a problem, try a solution and depending on the outcome, celebrate! Or… learn from the lesson. With that said, having a mentor saves you hundreds of hours of trial and error, and in this fast-paced world, this can go a long way towards success.
One of the biggest trends in recent years is finding a mentor you can rely on, so that your business can thrive. There are millions of successful businesses out there, yet far fewer people know how to communicate the best lessons involved, to not just survive, but to stand out from the rest. This article explores the benefits of having such a mentor.
Business coach or mentor, there are many benefits to having one. From asking questions and getting advice, to continually improving your skill-set and expanding your network, not all you learn will come from your own experience. Sometimes relying on the experience of others who’ve “been there, done that” is the quickest way to success.
It’s common knowledge that a majority of top business owners, CEOs and entrepreneur leaders relied on trusted mentors for their success. For example, Bill Campbell, the oft-called “Coach of Silicon Valley” was a personal coach to some of the most admired entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs (Apple), Larry Page (Google) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon).
Bob Iger, the incredibly successful Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company (and CEO from 2005 to 2020) often credits a number of mentors for his great fortune amidst some tough decisions, which have made the company thrive. These include his former boss, Dan Burke, as well as Apple’s Steve Jobs, Star Wars’ George Lucas, and Michael Eisner, who was the Chairman and CEO of Walt Disney, from 1984 to 2005.
When some of the brightest, most successful entrepreneurs in the world have seeked the advice of more experienced people — their coaches — this is because ‘no man (or woman) is an island’ and it benefits us to engage our marketplace as efficiently as possible. Instead of spending 3 months trying out different products for the Asian market, for example, why not ask your mentor what worked for her in the first place?
This is not to say it’s impossible to create a successful business without a mentor. But you can certainly gain a lot from it, by leveraging their knowledge, their encouragement, their positive and negative feedback, and their professional network. Even someone like Mark Zuckerberg, whose tech-startup mantra “move fast and break things” reflects the spirit of many tech startups, was also coached by Steve Jobs, once upon a time.
Here are a few more reasons why having a mentor is highly beneficial:
There are many studies and surveys about the efficacy of mentorship in a business environment. For instance, an executive coaching survey from a few years ago found that 80% of CEOs mentioned mentorship, as part of their growth. Plus another study found that over 90% of startups said having a mentor was instrumental to their success.
As the coaching survey also found, “what’s interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice”. This is especially relevant because common sense might dictate that once your company reaches success, with a strong team and sustainable revenue, you won’t need to worry about advice so much. Yet the opposite seems to be true, too.
This is because running a company is a never-ending challenge. By its nature, if your business doesn’t innovate, others can copy your products or services for lower costs, with better service, or create an enhanced version of what your company does. Perhaps your competitors move to an untapped market, or begin using a new technology like advanced AI, upgraded materials or blockchain, making their operations more efficient.
A mentor can assist in seeing things that you don’t yet see, by having a more detached view of your business, as well as the experience to know how to deal with a variety of situations. This includes what to do as well as what not to do, so you can make the most informed decisions, as well as having the confidence of someone “being in your corner”.
Experience is one of the most valuable assets that you can have, in both life and business. It is actually crucial to your very success. And while there is a whole world of knowledge to be gained from reading theoretical and technical books, biographies and autobiographies, and thousands of how to explainers, there is only so much you can learn from reading books (and watching videos), as opposed to experiencing it yourself.
In fact, some of the most helpful knowledge out there is not always found in books. Or at least not in books that are easily accessible to the majority. This is particularly true with business books, many of which offer valuable tidbits on how to do things, but it’s known that many authors still guard some of their most treasured learnings for themselves. This also happens because when some knowledge is out, it loses its effect.
To give you an idea, imagine a book that came out today, which purported to have the best knowledge on timing the stock markets. If it worked, that book would be a huge hit! Hundreds of books like this have actually come out, since the creation of stock markets. Some with more success than others — a lot of it has come down to marketing, and PR. Yet as word got out, the effect of that knowledge would lessen, as it all gets anticipated.
This has happened many times through history. If you Google “stock market books”, or “top investor books” or “how to beat the stock market”, you’ll find thousands of results. The reality however is that, once a theory — or market cycle, or golden rule — proves to be reliable in some way, it forms part of the general knowledge, and so gets quantified already with the rest of the market (which, as we know now, can’t really be anticipated).
The best way then to learn the truest of knowledge, is by experiencing it yourself. But because life is short and you only have 24 hours per day, mentorship provides a guaranteed way to gain valuable experience from others you can trust, saving you time.
Let’s say you were a ghostbuster… Literally someone who spent their days “busting ghosts”, capturing them, and thus making the city safer from their cheeky haunting. Would you rather: A) Go into a new haunted house everyday, facing a variety of ghosts and poltergeists, by yourself, without any assistance. Or B) Go into these houses with an experienced ghostbuster at your side, helping you deal with all the menaces there.
Probably A, right? It’s a silly analogy, true. But if we can compare for a bit the ghosts as financial challenges, poltergeists as supply chain challenges, the haunted house as your business, and the more experienced ghostbuster as your business mentor, then it makes sense to want to leverage their expertise as much as possible. At least until you can venture out on your own, ghostbusting new houses with experience and assurance.
Decades of research has proven that high-quality mentorship has a very positive, powerful effect on business owners, especially younger ones. When you have someone by your side assisting you — and helping you vent — with the issues that currently plague your enterprise, their professional advice will be like water in a desert. It will give you the necessary strength to keep going, and figure things out the best possible way.
In short, just by knowing that you have a reliable mentor to help you, can give you the necessary confidence to face difficult business situations. This also applies to praise, as others have noted, “good mentors will praise you when you have made good decisions. Praise can enable you to see yourself as a wise and experienced business person… [so you] …stand your ground when you must defend or stand by your business decisions”.
This is particularly useful because self-confidence has always been one of the most important attributes for success, as an entrepreneur (and again, in life). An interesting report from the Telegraph revealed that “having a high self-confidence contributes significantly to career success — more so than talent and competence”. With a pro by your side, helping you with some of the tougher decisions, your confidence will rocket.
If you’re a new business owner, because you’re young or because you’re just getting started with this enterprise, then you’ll probably have a limited network at first. This is entirely normal — we all gotta start somewhere, as they say. With that said, why not “leapfrog” that process, and make the best of your mentor’s network? If they truly care about your success, and more importantly, they believe in you, then they will help you.
There are near-limitless opportunities there. From the excellent guy on the street who polishes your mentors’ shoes, to a potential co-founder, investor or CEO, your coach will be your most useful source of contacts, because he already has been part of this business for years, or she might already have deals with the best providers. Often, you might need investment, and investors often trust startups recommended by their friends.
Another reason to tap into this resource, is that, ideally, your mentor trusts you and wants you to be a huge success. I mean, who doesn’t want to say that they mentored the next Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson? Therefore, they’ll do their best to put you together with some of the most relevant contacts, so that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, which at the end of the day will also benefit the mentor, not just both of you.
As most owners know, the rate of failure for new businesses is very high. Estimates vary from place to place (and on the market), but usually it’s more than 25% in the first year. The data behind the American-based Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% fail in their second year, 50% fail after five years in business, and 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.
While this data only applies to USA-based small businesses, it provides an interesting sample to extrapolate what happens to entrepreneurs worldwide. These can vary from not enough capital, to growing too quickly, to misusing marketing or not tapping into the market fully, while other competitors jumped in to copy and improve upon, your success.
Similarly, according to Investopedia, the four most common reasons why small businesses fail are lack of capital, inadequate management; ineffective business planning and missing the mark on marketing budgets. There are of course many more reasons why businesses of all sizes end up failing early on, with some common threads.
The right coach will already have gone through some of these, helping you with advice.
In addition to helping you troubleshoot common problems, they can provide you with reliable information to deal with a given situation. For instance, helping you improve your work environment for increased morale, dealing with financial aspects, or enhancing your communication skills. Your mentor can also prepare you with a plethora of proven methods and strategies to use through the years, as a growing entrepreneur.
We at the iLAB for Entrepreneur Business Accelerator team believe in great mentoring.
It’s not always easy finding the right business coach for you, someone you can rely on for all your burning business questions, or to foresee potential challenges in the near future. We know coaching is critical for success.
So apply today for our iLAB retreat, where you’ll get access to our highly-experienced mentors and accelerate your success.