Finding the right mentor

Guidance Mentorship acts a crucial factor for entrepreneurs to take prudent decisions in a competitive business environment.

Every successful entrepreneur would acknowledge the role of mentorship. During the initial days, all budding entrepreneurs face an uphill task. Right from setting up the business to the execution and finally building it into a successful company can be very intimidating. The initial operational hiccups, coupled with their limited experience in building a profitable business, can easily dissuade an individual from pursuing his or her entrepreneurial idea. This is where a mentor plays a crucial role. 

A true mentor will guide you to ask the right questions and empower you to find the answers yourself. While a mentor would bring to the table years of experience, it is you who will have to walk the uncharted path in order to give shape to your idea. Your mentor will provide you with one-to-one guidance and support which will help build your confidence to move ahead.

More than one

Now that you understand what to look for in a mentor, let’s focus on understanding what kind of a mentor you would need. It is extremely important to find a mentor who understands your venture. Your mentor will be in a position to get you the right recommendations and contacts for certain roles through his or her network.

It is commonly assumed that your mentor needs to be someone, who is at a higher level than you professionally. However, it all depends on what expertise and experience your mentor possesses. Also, it is not necessary to have only one mentor throughout your journey. Various mentors will bring in different experiences and knowledge depending on their field of expertise. Finding the right mentor or mentors may take you months, but it is going to be one of the most important decisions you make on your entrepreneurial journey. Hence, you need to choose wisely.

A single mentor perhaps may not have answers to all your questions. You will need to understand whose the right mentor for a particular situation – whose advice you would listen to and whose you wouldn’t for a particular problem.

Different perspectives

Communication and respect are two key aspects when it comes to the relationship between a mentor and a mentee. Understanding each other’s decisions and ensuring that one is honest and committed to the task is crucial. A mentor’s role is not always to boost your confidence, but also to tell you the truth. You will find a true critic in your mentor. While there will be differences in opinion, it is important to understand and respect each other’s perspectives.

While having a mentor through this crucial journey is extremely beneficial, you also need to realise that the start-up is solely your responsibility. Most often, entrepreneurs consider it to be the duty of their mentor to be as accountable in the start-up as themselves.

Your mentor will be a shoulder to cry on when things don’t go as planned and will be there to encourage you and provide advice. However, entrepreneurship will also teach you to track your achievements and be liable for all the decisions that you make.

Constant support

A mentor stays with you throughout your entrepreneurial journey, even after it has turned into a successful business. Because one thing a mentor will continue to have for you, that no else will is empathy. He or she has been in the same boat as you are. All along your journey, in every obstacle you face, you will know that there is one more person who has been there before and overcame the same hurdle — it’s your mentor.

Your mentor has come with many years of experience and is a specialist in this domain. This is your opportunity to make the most of your mentor’s knowledge. This will help you in understanding your mentor’s values and intelligence and thus, overcome obstacles in the future and boost your productivity.

As an entrepreneur, you will come across many situations where making the right decision may seem extremely difficult — this is where your true test lies. There may be a situation where you may have to lay off a friend or acquaintance with whom you had started the journey. In such scenarios, your mentor can help you rationalise your decision and make you see which is more important.

(The author is director, upGrad, Mumbai)

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