Plutarch once said, 'The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.' When it comes to business, our mentors are the ones who kindle that fire. They inspire us, help us through tough situations, and guide our paths.
When we’re starting out, as much as we’d like to know everything…we just…don’t. Having someone to call on for guidance is a great way to help navigate the unknowns.
Today, we have stories from mentees on how their mentors made a difference for them as small business owners. Their industries are different— and so are their circumstances— but all have benefited from the outside perspective from a great mentor (or two.)
Mentor Lesson #1: Set a Standard for Commitment and Passion
Mentee: Ryan Draving, CEO at Referable.com
Mentors: Jake Goldblum of Empire Covers and Chris Mengel of RazorWest & Mamook Media
Ryan met his mentor Jake Goldblum while working as his right-hand man at Empire Covers. Then at a hackathon in 2012, he met Chris Mengel. Jake and Chris taught Ryan how to set a standard for commitment and passion within a leadership role by doing just that within their own businesses.
Lesson for you: Look for mentors where you already work and spend time.
Find someone within your company leadership whose role aligns with where you want to be in the future.
Be deliberate in reaching out to that person(s) to ask for mentoring opportunities.
Study their leadership style and decision-making processes on a day-to-day basis.
Ask to attend (if only as a fly on the wall) when that person leads a meeting, speaking engagement, or teaching session—and take lots of notes.
Mentor Lesson #2: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Mentee: Dick Jacobsen, Franchise Owner of Valvoline Instant Oil Change Centers
Mentor: George Eble, Property Owner & Entrepreneur
These two men met in 1986 when Dick leased a property from his future mentor, George Eble. Aside from offering business advice learned from his own experiences, George built and leased buildings to Dick when he didn’t have the capital to expand on his own.
Lesson for you: Mentors can be investors, too.
Ask your mentor to serve as a Board member, sponsor, or event speaker as an opportunity for them to be an active participant in your endeavors.
Look for ways your mentor can offer their skills/resources in a win-win situation (i.e. financial investment in exchange for shares of your company)
Let your mentor invest their knowledge by listening and incorporating their advice to your business strategies
Mentor Lesson #3: Always Have a Sounding Board
Mentee: Shelley Hunter of GiftCardGirlfriend.com
Mentor: Mike Collins, CEO of Big Idea Group
Shelley and Mike met at a conference and built a working relationship on a foundation of trust and respect. In 2009, Shelley launched (and later sold) her business thanks to help and feedback from her trusty mentor.
Lesson for you: Let your mentor be your guide!
Get feedback and advice from your mentor before jumping into a new project.
Accept your mentor’s constructive criticisms as a way to enhance your ideas (a good mentor won’t always have only positive things to say.)
Let your mentor offer his or her unique perspective when considering a major shift in your business.
Mentor Lesson #4: Learn From My Experience
Mentee: Alli Russo, PR Consultant
Mentor: Kelly Brady of Brandsway Creative
Alli reached out to Publicist Kelly Brady as an information source while working on a story at her college newspaper. After the interview, the two kept in touch—which later evolved into an internship opportunity. By seeking out someone she respected for a one-time interview, Alli ended up gaining a life-long mentor who helped her navigate the industry.
Lesson for you: Learn the ins and outs of your field from an experienced veteran.
Don’t repeat history—learn from mistakes your mentor has already made.
Use your mentor’s connections to help build new relationships and opportunities
Ask questions. Ask lots of them. Soak up their answers like a sponge.
Find out what worked for your mentor and implement those same tactics.
When It Comes To Mentors...
When it comes to mentors, there are so many things you can learn— these lessons are just the tip of the iceberg.
The trick is getting those relationships started. If you see someone who’s successful and is doing what you want to do, reach out to him or her. Find mentoring opportunities at work or with the people you already know and respect.
Our number one piece of advice? Get a good mentor, and learn all you can. One day, you may have the opportunity to return the favor and make a difference in someone else’s world.
Your Turn: Who’s the mentor that profoundly impacted your small business? What did they do for you?