One of the most important yet overlooked key to entrepreneurial success is having a mentor. This is a special companion in your entrepreneurial journey, showing you the way, counselling your and telling you what to expect and what you should do in different circumstances.
The word mentor is derived from a character called ‘Mentor’ in Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey.
In this tale, Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca. When Odysseus fought in the Trojan War, Mentor served as friend and counsel to Odysseus’ son Telemachus.
The word mentor in business sense means a wise, successful, experienced and trusted person who has been in the business before you and understands it well.
The first and foremost trait of a mentor is experience. This must be a person who has been in the industry you want to venture into and has achieved an appreciable level of success.
You don’t need to have a mentor who is struggling to counsel you on how to succeed. You need someone who has survived turbulent and storms that characterise every business from time to time so that they can guide you on how to survive.
Second, a mentor must be wise and able to see things from different perspectives. This is boosted largely by experience in the market and is something you cannot get from books regardless how many you read.
A good mentor will advise you on how to craft competitive products, deal with competition, internal structures within your business and manager your expectations and you pursue your dreams.
Third, a mentor will help you build a network in the industry by introducing you to their colleagues and contacts. This helps you feel at home and get more people to interact, share ideas and do business with. It gives you opportunity to peep into other people’s business for benchmarking or expanding your knowledge.
Perhaps the most gain from a mentor is help you manage your expectations and make rational decisions. Most people enter into business with very high and usually unrealistic expectations of making a lot of money with very little effort.
We all venture into business with plans of how we will make money and how to spend it. We hardly imagine failure and debt burden as an option and plan for it. We plan for entry but not for exit because the latter seems so remote.
A mentor steps in to give you a clear picture of what it takes to succeed and how to avoid failure, and most important how to handle failure should it come.
A good mentor guides you on how put passion and emotions aside when making business decisions. They encourage you to keep going and doing things differently when the going gets tough.
Basically, a mentor should be a friend and a successful person who is not looking for your money to pay his bills.
Most successful business people would be willing to hold a genuine person’s hand to wade into the business for free. However, as mentee you should restrain yourself from asking for financial favours from your mentor.
Mr Kiunga is a business trainer and the author of The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market. [email protected]