At the forefront of every entrepreneurial venture are two certainties: the conception of an idea and the desire for seamless execution. Everything else is a mere combination of fear, inexperience, ignorance, and zeal. Although this disposition can be unforgiving, it is a part of the courageous discourse of entrepreneurship that every entrepreneur encounters and often overcomes. For example, entrepreneurship is theoretically equivalent to preparing for war; you know you want to fight, the foreseeable outcome is winning, but executing that victory is jumbled in your lack of experience as a fighter, the fear that it may kill you, and jumping head first into a situation with inadequate preparation. Fortunately, proactive and preventative resources exist to minimize the risk of failure when taking on the battle of business. More specifically, mentorship is a key weapon capable of optimizing success in the realm of entrepreneurship.
Mentorship, although commonly undermined and underestimated, places you in a position of observation (and in some instances, participation), allowing you to become more familiar with the craft or career of your choosing. Consider this: having a single conversation with an individual who has soldiered through the trenches of entrepreneurship can spark myriad ideas and transform the way you approach your own business. Imagine then, what magnitude a series of conversations throughout your journey can yield when you answer the call into the world of start-ups. In fact, don’t just imagine; having a mentor should be attached to any business idea that you intend to pursue, so much so, that the idea should be impossible to fulfill without one.
The benefit of being a protégé to a professional who can enlighten you far outweighs the cost of seeking the right mentor (it can be an intimidating and daunting process finding the right person who is willing to work with you as much as you are willing to work with them). In a 2003 study conducted by Jackson et al., it was reported that mentoring relationships are key to developing productive careers and yield personal satisfaction for both the mentor and the protégé. The ability to have someone who can critique your ideas, give you constructive criticism, and encourage you along the way can eliminate potential setbacks that derive from error. This is not to say that you won’t make mistakes, because you will. However, there is a safety net the works both proactively and retroactively to activate damage control. “Mentors provide a safe, secure culture in which protégés can develop ideas/innovations, ensuring that they receive the recognition their efforts deserve”.
Once you’ve come to terms with the necessity of a mentor/mentee relationship for any startup or entrepreneurial endeavor, “the search” must commence. The search is simply finding someone who is adequate enough to lead you and humble enough to be challenged. Equally important is your connection—how well your personality gels—with the professional. Research suggests that mentor relationships are best formed in unprofessional environments. Perhaps find common interests and build on those first. Finally, seek someone that can contribute effectively to the circle of inspiration; you inspire him and he inspires you. Mentors gravitate towards rising stars, so show why you deserve to be among and even transcend them.
Entrepreneurship will never be easy, but if you’re prepared you can handle whatever it throws in your direction. Look at it this way: You would never show up to war without your weapon and expect a victory, let alone an easy one, so don’t show up for business without the right tools expecting success to fall in your lap.