Surround Yourself with Mentors

by Ash Kumra

This chapter is a free excerpt from Confessions from an Entrepreneur (Volume 1).

Todd Herschberg: Branding, Marketing & Social Media Pioneer

No matter how smart you are, no matter how great your team, no matter how brilliant your idea—it always helps to have a mentor or two. Your mentors will be the folks who will help steer you through the struggles ahead. The ones to keep you grounded, to hold you accountable, to give you perspective.

A good mentor will be able to provide a solid reality check on your concepts, plans, and vision, providing the necessary arm's-length distance to support you in the good ideas while steering you away from the time-wasters.

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Todd Herschberg: Branding, Marketing & Social Media Pioneer

No matter how smart you are, no matter how great your team, no matter how brilliant your idea—it always helps to have a mentor or two. Your mentors will be the folks who will help steer you through the struggles ahead. The ones to keep you grounded, to hold you accountable, to give you perspective.

A good mentor will be able to provide a solid reality check on your concepts, plans, and vision, providing the necessary arm's-length distance to support you in the good ideas while steering you away from the time-wasters.

In an entrepreneurial environment, a good portion of your time will be spent putting out the fires of the moment. Your mentor will be the one to keep you focused on the items of real importance and hold you accountable to your real goals.

A good mentor will be able to provide you with good contacts. A great mentor will help you build your own network of contacts. Need a lawyer? Seeking investors? Searching for client or customer number one? Your mentors will help you pull together these folks. How do you find a mentor? Below are a few steps you may find useful:

Step 1—Identify your mentorship needs.

This involves a bit of soul-searching—asking yourself the tough questions and identifying (honestly) your weaknesses. Not so good at marketing? You might want a mentor who is great at it. Never been a CEO before? It might be useful to have a mentor who has travelled the entrepreneurial CEO road.

A few things you should look for in a mentor:
  • More experience or knowledge than you in the areas where you want to grow
  • Values and traits you would like to emulate
  • Commitment to being available for you
  • Ability and willingness to hold you accountable and focused
Step 2—Don't limit yourself to just one mentor.

You may find one individual who is a perfect fit for you, but don't be afraid to think bigger—a good advisory board is effectively a panel of mentors for you and your company.

Step 3—Create a candidate pool.

Let your network know that you are looking for mentors and advisors. Attend some networking events. Look online. Check LinkedIn. Contact your alumni associations. Come up with a list of more potential mentors than you could possibly need.

Step 4—Identify the RIGHT mentors.

Once you've identified your candidates, spend a bit of time to find the right fit. Building your mentor team is like building your company team—you want to find the right mix of strengths and skills.

Step 5—Ask them to mentor you.

When you approach your candidates and ask them to mentor you, be sure to explain your goals and why you think they’ll be a good fit for you. If they decline, don’t take it personally—they may have other obligations or responsibilities that may stand in their way of being a good fit.

Step 6—Don't be afraid of change.

Over the course of your entrepreneurial life, your needs will change—the mentorship needs of a start-up are far different from those of an mid-stage or established company. As your needs change, you may need to move on to different mentors... and a good mentor will understand this and be happy to see you go on to bigger successes.

Step 7—Become a mentor to others.

You’ll find that you can learn as much from your protégés as you do from your mentors.

* * * * *

Todd Herschberg is a seasoned entrepreneur and marketing executive with a heavy emphasis on branding, ecommerce, and digital marketing. In addition to frequent speaking engagements, Todd is one of the most-connected people on LinkedIn (30K connections), one of FastCompany's 50 Most Influential People Online for 2010 (#33) and the founder of 3 of the 10 largest community groups on Groupsite.com.
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