How can you achieve success as a start-up?
Face it: no entrepreneur is an island.
I used to think that I could do it all alone, and that I could smash through to achieve success as long as I was determined enough and worked hard enough.
We all need contacts, peers, colleagues, partners and friends to help us through tough times and to share their experiences with, but most disruptive entrepreneurs are left with the feeling that it isn’t enough – and they’re right. The key lies in not simply having equals to help guide you, but to look to someone – or some people – who are farther along the career path than you are. These people have already mastered the obstacles you will soon face, and can use their experiences to show you the smoothest, quickest route to achieving success in your field.
Put simply, if you have a poor or free mentor, it’s the blind leading the blind. If you don’t have a mentor at all, then you are seriously missing out. This is true at any stage of your career, but it is all-consuming if you are a start-up.
A good mentor will show you exactly how to achieve success.
Mentoring benefits for disruptive start-ups
Most start-ups fail – it’s a sad fact of entrepreneurial life. It is often said that within 3 years, more than 90% of first-time businesses collapse, and according to the Startup Genome Report on Premature Scaling, of the businesses who failed, 74% did so due to premature scaling.
This is a powerful statistic, and one that should resonate with anyone about to start or who recently started a new venture, but don’t worry – there is an equally powerful solution.
According to inc.com and UPS, 88% of business owners call having a mentor “invaluable”, while micromentor.org reported in a survey that companies who received mentoring over a year increased their revenue by 106%, while those who received none only increased theirs by an average of 14%.
The problem is that many disruptive entrepreneurs – and not just start-ups, but entrepreneurs at all stages of their career path – fail to recognise how valuable it is to have a business expert to confide in, and how a mentor provides so much more than just a person to have a chat with. They ignore the fact that the most famous disruptive entrepreneurs who have ever lived were mentored and became mentors themselves.
Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs.
Warren Buffet was mentored by Benjamin Graham.
Richard Branson was mentored by British airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker. In fact, Richard Branson said, “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker – founder of Laker Airways.”
For God’s sake, before Luke Skywalker was a Jedi, he was mentored by Yoda!
There is a clear link between hugely successful disruptive entrepreneurs (and Jedis) and their mentors, and this pattern is something you should take clear notice of.
What does a good mentor do?
They can use their experience to advise you on any number of different subjects within your industry, and while every disruptive entrepreneur’s experiences are different, a good mentor’s wealth of experience will enable them to draw parallels between what they have seen and known and your own experiences.
Just as importantly, a mentor holds you to account. It is amazing how much easier it is to break a promise made to yourself than to a mentor who has already reached the place in their career that you are seeking to find yourself. The distance that a mentor has from your own business is its own precious trait, as their interest in your achieving success becomes objective, fuelled by a desire to see you succeed in your way rather than what could be a ravenous hunger for profit of a partner or a spouse.
You should also never underestimate and good mentor’s ability to supply you with networking contacts. Having no doubt spent decades in the industry that you are seeking to conquer, a great mentor will have gathered a wide array of contacts, bringing with them the potential for countless other opportunities brought about by new introductions.
A great mentor will tell you firmly how to break away from those bad habits that you have no doubt developed, show you the shortest route to achieving success, how to avoid burnout and procrastination, how to find your way when you feel lost, and will teach you the filthy secrets that only the most successful entrepreneurs know about, which will help take you from average or failure to the level you should be aiming for.
How to find a mentor
Sometimes, the toughest step you need to make is admitting that you have a problem.
No, I don’t mean that you have to stand up and admit something terrible about yourself – I just mean that you need to accept that, without reaching out to someone else for help and guidance, you are never going to become the entrepreneurial powerhouse that you deserve to be.
- Vision – So first, consider your vision for the future. What current problems do you have or foresee having that you will need to overcome? Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time? How much money do you want to have saved and to be earning? How many hours a week do you want to be working?
These are some of the challenges and goals that you may want to have solidified in your mind before approaching a mentor.
- Possible candidates – Make a list of the kinds of disruptive entrepreneurs you admire – your heroes, if you like – and the traits that have made them figures of respect for you, as well as the negative qualities that they lack. Then, list some people in your industry who you already know personally, and see which of these traits they possess and if they have any of those less desirable qualities.
- Contact them – Reach out to both your heroes and the people you know personally via email or a friendly phone call.
While this step may seem overwhelming, bear in mind that the absolute worst thing that can happen as a result is that they either don’t reply or they turn you down. You might suffer a slightly bruised ego, but nothing lasting, and the best thing about this stage is that most people welcome the opportunity to share their experiences with someone who is genuinely seeking help.
- Meet with them – After several light touch contact points, suggest a meet-up in a neutral place like a café, restaurant, or even a bar. Here, you will want to have an open, honest conversation about what you are looking for in a mentor, gauge their response and see who you click with and who you don’t. You may be surprised to find that you develop an instant rapport with some, and if so, these are the people you will want to nurture a deeper relationship with, and eventually take on as your mentor.
Read more about how to achieve success in business here
If you would like to learn more about how to get more done by doing less, read my book Life Leverage, which you can find here
Thanks for your time. If you would like to ask anything, drop me a comment below, or tag me into a Facebook conversation!