As every CEO, entrepreneur and small business owner knows: It’s lonely at the top.
Even with all the inherent advantages of having the final word in decision-making and the status of being an executive, we as company leaders sometimes feel isolated from the rest of the business world—and on occasion, in our own organizations—merely by serving in a leadership role.
Overcoming this isolation, however, can be eased. In my own experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve leaned on countless resources for guidance and insight on how to be a better small business owner. Yet none of these resources have been as valuable and essential to my professional growth as the mentors who I’ve shaped business relationships, partnerships and even friendships with over the years.
When you begin to look at how many small businesses make it past 2, 5 and 10 years in business, you see that success can either be fleeting, or if approached in the right way, it can be built upon. So when you ask those entrepreneurs who’ve become icons of the American success story how they took their companies from struggling to thriving, you’ll find that mentors were a big part of their story.
Here’s what a few big names in business had to say on the role of mentors in their own business ventures:
Mark Zuckerberg on Steve Jobs: He was amazing…[he gave me advice on] How to build a team around you…that’s focused on building as high quality and good things as you are. How to keep an organization focused…And I just think we connected on that level.
Bill Gates on Warren Buffet: I pick Warren as somebody I have learned an immense amount from, just hearing his stories of how he dealt with tough situations, how he thought long-term, how he models the world. If you get a chance to spend time with people like that, it’s fantastic.
Sir Richard Branson on Sir Freddie Laker: It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker. Understandably there’s a lot of ego, nervous energy and parental pride involved, especially with one- or two-person start-ups…Going it alone is an admirable, but foolhardy and highly flawed approach to taking on the world.
Rarely do entrepreneurs have access to business moguls on the same level as Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs. Yet this shouldn’t get in the way of finding someone who’s able to cut to the heart of why you’re struggling as a business owner, or will celebrate your wins with you as you navigate new territory.
Knowing who to look for is just as important as knowing where to look when you’re seeking out a mentor. With that said, here are some ways to find a mentor that’s right for you.
SCORE Mentors: Because finding a business mentor can be challenging, the Small Business Administration began sponsoring the SCORE non-profit program to help entrepreneurs connect with their large network of executives, leaders and volunteers who offer free, confidential mentoring. The site also provides entrepreneurs with an array of tools, workshops and webinars that expand these offerings even further.
Small Business Development Centers: The SBA also gives assistance to entrepreneurs through its Small Business Development Centers scattered across the U.S. and located in most mid- to large-size cities. By locating a nearby branch, you can receive financial counseling, marketing advice and management guidance along with specialized assistance that pertains to your specific industry.
Networking & Peer Groups: If you’re interested in sitting down with other small business executives who are familiar with operating in the same region, networking and peer groups are great for connecting with other leaders who may be struggling with, or have found solutions to, the same problems you’re experiencing. Beyond discovering that leaders enjoy helping other leaders, you might also get an opportunity to share some ways you’ve made improvements in your own business as well.
While you begin the process of finding a mentor, we invite you to listen to our radio show, The Second Stage, for information and guidance from small business owners whose companies are currently thriving. Also, read our Resources section to gather even more insight on how to create the business you’ve envisioned.
Are you ready for the next phase in your evolution as a company, leader and entrepreneur? Receive insights, resources and actionable advice delivered directly to your inbox to help take you and your small business to the next level.
We respect your privacy. Your information stays with us.