In the startup world, networking is everything. If you have a good idea and are looking to start your own company, one of the most important things to do is find an entrepreneur mentor. They can provide guidance on how to get started and offer insight into what it takes to be successful in business. But where should you look? It’s not always easy to know who would best suit your needs as a mentee, but here are some ideas for finding them:
1) Identify who your potential mentor is.
Who are the people in your industry that you admire? Which ones would be willing or interested in mentoring someone like yourself? These may include CEOs, investors, advisors, etc. For example: What company does this person work at? What is their title? Is that company doing something they’re proud of? Are they a fan of your product or services? Use the answers to these questions to look for common ground with this person.
2) Make sure you are an effective networker and have business cards.
This is important when meeting someone for the first time (sometimes even the 2nd or 3rd) to help break the ice. Everyone likes to be asked their opinion and is flattered by it. The more you meet, get cards out there, etc., the greater your network will become. You don’t want to use this person as a crutch if possible but rather leverage them for advice and guidance.
3) Meet one-on-one, then form a relationship.
In the beginning, it’s probably not going to be about asking them for anything but instead establishing a connection. Again, use your knowledge on how they feel about things you are passionate about to find out what common ground you have. Are they involved with any Ivy League clubs or associations that you are a member of? Have they given presentations or made public speeches about the companies they’ve worked within the past? Go to conferences and events that relate to your business and volunteer to be on panels. Find out what associations and societies this person is involved with.
4) Are you interested in being mentored by them.
What makes someone suitable to be a mentor? In my opinion, it’s someone that you admire and respect, who has had experience in areas of your business you don’t know much about, someone with credibility, and someone willing. Figure out if this person’s goals are in line with yours. Would they benefit from helping you, or do they already have their hands full mentoring others?
5) Be ready to live up to the mentor-mentee relationship.
As an entrepreneur, you may already be busy trying to run your business. However, a good mentoring session can help focus your thoughts and clarify new directions for you and your business. Remember that you also need to understand how other stakeholders will be affected by your decisions as an entrepreneur. Again, make sure your network and get out there.