Whether you are just starting your career, or a seasoned business owner, having a network of mentors is equally important.
Unfortunately, the concept of a mentor is often misunderstood. Many tend to think of mentors as wise, old sages, dispensing some sort of profound advice that will transform lives. While that’s an appealing idea, it’s a concept more common in literature or movies than in reality.
By definition, a mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser, someone to turn to for advice or guidance on a particular subject in which he or she has relevant experience. A mentor may be someone with whom you share a close personal relationship, however, it’s not necessary to be friends with a mentor. In fact, the relationship may be of a purely professional nature. A mentor may exist in your life for a number of years, or for a very short period of time.
The point is that mentors can represent a combination of individuals and relationships.
I have a network of mentors, a group of talented and wise individuals whom I continue to rely upon for guidance, or simply a sounding board for my ideas and visions. Some of these individuals know I consider them a mentor, and some probably have no idea. Most of my mentors are older than me, but a few are younger. Some of them are compensated for the mentorship services they provide, and some are just close friends who freely offer their advice.
Since starting my own company 16 years ago, the number of individuals that I consider mentors has grown extensively. Even though mentors can serve as a great resource for any type or level of professional, for the entrepreneur, mentors can be invaluable.
Entrepreneurship can be an isolated venture. Entrepreneurs and business owners create their own corporate structure, and their co-workers and colleagues within the business generally work for the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs and business owners also don’t typically have a boss, understanding the individuals they report to are most likely their customers. In their businesses, entrepreneurs often work within an environment where objective advice and guidance is likely limited, if it exists at all.
Entrepreneurs find themselves faced with an avalanche of issues and challenges, often on a daily basis. To believe they can deal with all of this on their own, without the assistance of a network of mentors, is not only foolish but also a collision course for failure.
If you are considering entrepreneurship, think about who will be included in your network of mentors, and begin the process of reaching out to these individuals for their expertise and advice.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.