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Brian Marcel on “The Mentor Equation” and “Eating Your Humble Pie”

It is not only new entrepreneurs that need a mentor.

Even well-established business people do, because there is nothing like being able to chat over some issues with someone who has had real life experience. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that they can do everything themselves and may fool themselves as they either:

  • Don’t want to give equity away
  • Are control freaks and have to micro manage everything
  • Too proud to ask for help
  • Have as big an ego as Donald Trump!

But if you are an entrepreneur who doesn’t have the above hang ups having a mentor is truly a game changer in growing your business. 20% of new businesses fail in their first year and 50% only survive five years. It is so lonely being an entrepreneur and just to have that experienced shoulder to cry on. That experience to draw on makes all the difference.

A great deal is at stake. After all you are risking your own money and maybe other people’s too like family and friends. Risk is the operative word because nothing in business is a certainty. Every decision you take has a greater or lesser consequence and you need the self-confidence and self-belief to make those decisions in the first place.

Once you have some money you must start hiring the best people you can afford. You need people who believe in your vision and your plan, so they will be as committed to it as you are. Of course, you need the vision and plan in the first place – prerequisites of starting a successful business. Hire people with complimentary skills to yourself and are preferably cleverer and more experienced than you. This will inflate the salary bill but worth it to obtain their skills.

You want employees who will challenge you and keep you on track, you do not want a whole lot of ‘yes men’ with no ideas of their own. Being challenged is part of what a mentor does. The mentor is not an employee and thus has no executive responsibility. The advice is, therefore, free from any emotional entanglement or staff loyalties which often cloud the judgement of the entrepreneur.

But no mentor likes to offer advice and not be listened to. That is the kiss of death and you will be dumped immediately. Just like any ideas that come from your team listen, evaluate and for the most part adopt them – be prepared to eat humble pie.

As the business grows a mentor still plays a hugely valuable role. You may have been smart in the early days and found a trusted person to share your company with who has the complimentary skills you needed – say you are a visionary then complimentary would be someone who can execute the business plan and vice versa. Hopefully you would have given them 50% equity, so you are equal partners, but your Board of Directors will likely have their own agendas one of which may be to stab you in the back for something. The mentor will always take your side and help you find a way through.

A good mentor is not a problem solver nor a coach, although there can be a fine line here. The mentor’s job is to listen to the issue, ask you what you would do about it, if that is considered the right decision, then you go ahead–if not he/she will ask you open questions leading you along the path where the solution lies. Thus, you will come up with the ideal solution yourself!

All great business heroes have or had mentors for example Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs and Bill Gates learned from Warren Buffet. So, I challenge you ask: who will you learn from?