In a January 26, 2012 article for Entrepreneur magazine (Mentors: A Young Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon) Adam Toren writes,
…to take advantage of the most powerful weapon an entrepreneur can have, find a mentor.
A good mentor helps you think through a business idea, suggests ways to generate that startup capital and provides the experience and savvy you’re missing. You’ll get praise when you deserve it and a heads-up when trouble comes — probably long before you would have noticed it yourself.
Instead of mentoring, many entrepreneurs “hang out” with peers, attend fun/trendy events for start-ups, and make presentations at conferences and forums. While there is a place for many–if not all–of these activities, they do not take the place of a relationship with someone who has knowledge or expertise in areas that are not your own strengths. Often, the mentors even know of others who can be helpful in additional disciplines so that you are able to become surrounded with wise counsel and advice. EntreDot is a mentoring organization that has seen the need for this type of service and is creating and implementing programs via innovation centers and in conjunction with strategic allies to foster entrepreneurship in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina.
Entrepreneurs — especially young ones — tend to tap their friends for business advice. But that can be a mistake. The reason is, friends tell you what you want to hear. For what you need to hear, rather, a mentor is often a better bet.
A mentor could be a professional who advises entrepreneurs for a living or someone working in a related industry who is willing to help you. And unlike your friends, mentors are typically more removed from you and your business. So they tend to be more comfortable delivering bad or critical news and advice. And since many of them have either started up businesses in the past or have worked in industries that you’re trying to shake up, mentors can also fill experience gaps, as well as impart their wisdom on how to handle specific business challenges.
The above quote was taken from another article in Entrepreneur magazine, this one by Martin Zwillig last week (A Good Mentor Will Tell it Like It Is). The gist of his insight is that mentors can come from a variety of backgrounds, but their key role is to warn you of missteps rather than cheer your every decision. The good mentors can help you identify steps to success and stand by you to follow them when challenges would distract you from executing your plan.
Zwillig concludes by suggesting 5 Qualities That Are a Must in an Ideal Mentor:
Hope you are successful in putting your own secret weapon to strategic advantage!