Every new business owner should find a mentor for guidance. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your business, but you can always consult a mentor for advice. A mentor is someone who has been down the same path you’re taking. He or she is experienced, successful, and willing to provide advice.
A mentor is invaluable for budding entrepreneurs. But how can you find a mentor for your small business or startup? This is the question BlackEnterprise.com posed to members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.
In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Here are their top 11 ideas for finding a mentor:
[Related: 5 Ways to Be the Mentee Every Mentor Wants]
1. Hire an Executive Coach. I think some entrepreneurs think of a mentor as a knight in shining armor, someone who will help guide their every move and meet regularly to dish out savvy advice. Yes, some entrepreneurs do get this kind of mentorship. Other times, what you really need is to hire an executive coach. This person becomes an extension of your team and can help you reach goals and become a better business owner.
2. Match Them to Your Personal Goals. The mentor that’s best for you has been there, and done that. Be very careful to make sure they have actually achieved the personal big-picture goals you set for yourself. For example, even if they have a seven-figure business, is it the type of business model you also want with 14-hour workdays, public speaking engagements, etc.? Consider these points before reaching out.
3. Reach Out to Industry Experts at Conferences. I’ve found some amazing experts by reaching out to speakers at conferences. At industry shows, I make it a point to go up to successful individuals that I admire and connect with them. If there’s synergy, I will ask if they’ll have coffee or dinner. If that goes well, I’ll ask if they’d be willing to occasionally help by answering questions and offering guidance; most are happy to do so.
4. Check Your Alumni Network. A great place to start a search for a mentor is in your alumni network. When I lived in China, my mentor was also a University of Southern California alum, and we met at a Trojan event. There’s an extra bond when you are from the same school, and I think there’s a strong willingness on the part of the mentor to share knowledge with a new graduate or young founder. Attend a chapter event or find them on LinkedIn.
5. Ask Friends. Ask your closest “business” friends who they would recommend. See if they know anyone in their network who might be relevant. Finding a strong mentor is not an easy task, so filtering the list by listening to close friends is certainly helpful.
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