How Mentors Can Help Launch Your Entrepreneurial Career

Estimated read time 6 min read

Founder and CEO of ERG Enterprises. Nationally recognized thought leader on entrepreneurship, investing and leadership.

“Develop your business plan.” “Practice your pitch.” “Land a meeting with investors.” As an entrepreneur, your to-do list likely details a myriad of responsibilities that follow the advice of any MBA program or internet search. But these vital sources of information often overlook one of the most important recommendations for an entrepreneur’s early career: Before developing your business plan or practicing your pitch, set out to find a mentor—one who can help you navigate one of the most difficult and demanding professions.

But why and how? In this article, I share four reasons why you should seek out a mentor and tips for doing it successfully.

1. Mentors help you set the right expectations.

Without exposure to entrepreneurship, it’s easy to set the wrong expectations about the profession. Research shows that most people become entrepreneurs to be their own boss, pursue a passion, earn more money, etc. In my experience, starting out as an entrepreneur means working twice as hard for often less than you would at your full-time job, with no guarantee your sacrifice will see a return. A recent study found that more than eight in 10 entrepreneurs work nights and weekends, while the average base salary of US entrepreneurs is approximately $61,000.

Setting the right expectations is necessary to endure this grueling yet worthwhile path. Not everyone is cut out for it, and the sooner you learn this, the better it will be for your career and happiness. For me, the right expectations came through the mentorship I received from a fellow surgeon, who eventually owned and operated the surgical hospital I bought. He gave me insight into the discipline of entrepreneurship and what it would mean to run an organization employing more than 100 full-time staff and a dozen physicians.

2. Mentors improve the success rate of your actions.

leadership. Sales. marketing. HR. accounting. Legal. The list is exhaustive. As the founder of a startup company, you’re involved in every aspect of the business and do almost everything. Over time, as your company acquires clients and hires employees, your role evolves. Leadership becomes the primary focus. So does strategy. Your focus shifts to higher-order responsibilities.

Throughout the life cycle of your business, you make countless decisions that carry significant implications. And this highlights another value proposition of a mentor: By having “been there, done that,” your mentor can help guide you to make the right decisions and improve the success rate of your actions, which can be invaluable no matter if your business is in the startup, scaleup or mid-market phase.

3. Mentors help you build a network for career success.

Entrepreneurship is a social endeavor, meaning you can’t build a successful company alone. Too often, I encounter founders who aspire to build wildly successful enterprises independently—an aspiration often driven by vanity.

Mentors are important value drivers in the social enterprise of entrepreneurship. In addition to supplying essential knowledge, they also introduce important connections to entrepreneurs, partners, investors and others who can help you not only with your present business but also your journey as an entrepreneur. (In my experience, the latter is far more important and valuable than the former.)

For example, my mentor introduced me to key individuals who have helped me start and build multiple companies. They’ve also helped me grow a career as an investor. I believe other serial entrepreneurs share my sentiments about the impact mentorship can have on success.

4. Mentors are ambassadors of your business.

It never hurts to build ambassadors for your business—people who are emotionally and intellectually invested in the success of your enterprise and believe in the value of its existence. Mentors are ideal advocates because they inevitably acquire a sense of ownership in your business by investing their time, effort and knowledge into helping you.

And here’s why that matters: Positive publicity. Ambassadors can amplify the reach and recognition of your business through word-of-mouth promotion, social media and more, which can bring value to the business in many ways.

How To Find The Right Mentor

By getting a mentor to support your growth as an entrepreneur, you fast-track your path to success. But that brings up an important question: How do you find and secure the right mentor? Here are five tips to get started.

• Seek out successful entrepreneurs.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, you want to learn from those who have experienced success. That means finding someone who has experience starting and growing a viable enterprise and bringing it to a positive exit event, such as a sale.

• Be proactive.

Mentors are most attracted to ambitious students who are passionate about their craft, eager to learn and acknowledge the value of support. That’s why it’s important that you demonstrate these characteristics in your search for the right mentor. Show an interest and admiration in your mentor’s business or career accomplishments. Be passionate about your profession as an entrepreneur. Beyond that, show that you’re open to coaching and that you appreciate any assistance they can give.

• LinkedIn leverage.

With more than 774 million users, LinkedIn is the top social media platform for professionals, making it the ideal vehicle for connecting with potential mentors. It’s easier to find entrepreneurs with experience in your vertical and who share connections with people you already know.

• Join a local entrepreneurial community.

In every city in the US, you’ll undoubtedly find formal and informal communities for entrepreneurs. Whether they’re accelerators, incubators or non-profits, these organizations exist to support your growth as a business builder and connect you with like-minded entrepreneurs.

Accelerate your career development.

Entrepreneurship can be one of the most challenging and demanding professions, and navigating it alone is risky. To improve your chances of success, seek the support of people who understand the science of entrepreneurship and what it takes to go from A to B. By beginning your search for a mentor, you can fast-track your path to success and bypass some of the hard lessons that other founders learn firsthand.


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