Learn from the best!
AFTER much thought, deliberation and apprehension a close friend put all her life's savings in what she thought was the safest business venture she could think of. Despite great expectations and the initial support the hype didn't stand a chance in a recessive market economy. She realised that despite her years of experience and her business acumen, when it came to starting on her own she didn't know everything! She had always worked for `others'. Fortunately she had the humility to know that someone out there will be able to teach her what to do, how to do it and most importantly how to survive the journey.
Every young entrepreneur needs someone more experienced to turn to for advice. We are talking of more than mentors here. What you need is a person who is a teacher, a coach, part parent and part judge who has the wisdom to guide you through your darkest period and the right to force you not to give up when you desperately want to. Most successful entrepreneurs today are sure of two things - they learnt from the best and that they would not be where they are today without their coach and mentor.
Making the connection is the first step. Spend as much time as possible with your mentor, soaking up all the learning, knowledge and experience, strategies and approach that he brings to the table. You may not work for long with your business `teacher' but you sure can seek his valuable input on issues that concern your business. It can almost be like taking an on the job course in business!
To be able to get along with your coach is very essential. A good mentor will never make you rely on him; he will help you to find out what is it you want to achieve and come up with ways to make it possible.
Like in any relationship you should be comfortable with each other. Be inquisitive. You should be able to raise questions and in turn your mentor should be able to ask you about your dreams and aspirations for your business. How well and how easily you are able to communicate with this person will determine the success of your relationship. Many a time all you have to do is to sit back and observe the other person operate and handle various situations. You will be surprised at how much you can learn, not just professionally but also about good personal work habits.
One of the blessings of being mentored is that you have a person who can look at things objectively and dispassionately. By virtue of the fact that they are outside of a situation they have a clear and logical viewpoint, which you may have not considered.
Finding the perfect mentor may not be an easy task. It will take a patient and sensible search. Research the industry you are interested in, find businesses you admire and network with them. Actively seek a business coach, or join a small business network to meet people who can share their experiences and knowledge with you. They are the best people to give you business education, a sort of teacher, advisor and support group all rolled in one.
The way it is done
As a `learning' entrepreneur, you have a responsibility to make the relationship work. It is after all a two way street. Never commit the mistake of idolising your mentor or agreeing with everything he says. Disagree and contradict when appropriate, but learn from the disagreements.
Let yourself be open to coaching. You may not always like what your mentor has to say. It's easy to make yourself believe that you could do it but in reality opening yourself to coaching and criticism is hard to take at a stage when you yourself are an entrepreneur, albeit a fledging one. Remember one good way of learning is to be humble and know that you do not know everything. But ultimately all the decisions are yours, the success or failure is yours, your mentor will be around only to cheer you on or to guide you.
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