You will need to find one before we can help you ,” the counselor replied.
Mentor: wise counsel of advanced experience, providing supportive direction to less experienced individuals. There are publications galore emphasizing the importance of establishing a mentor relationship(s) before starting a business. Some even go as far as the uninspiring SBA counselor, cautioning wannapreneurs from ever taking the plunge without solid team of support.
I spent years trying to find a mentor—college professors, entrepreneurial oriented relatives, professional networks, B-school professors, and the list goes on and on. No one wanted to assist with my business development, as their time was always invested in “more promising” candidates. After exhausting my resources and coming up empty handed, I decided to go at it alone, moving forward with my entrepreneurial ventures solo. Sure, it was difficult. Yes, it would have been nice to have some mentor like support. No, I do not regret my decision to take the entrepreneurial stage as a one man show.
What can you do when you don’t have a mentor? Here are three strategies that will help you pursue your passions without a wingman:
Rely on Alternative “Fuel”:
We live in a world of information--articles, books, podcasts, videos, and other resources are literally everywhere. While such instructional advice may not be as beneficial as having an industry-experienced entrepreneur/mentor on speed dial, one can learn a great deal from third party accounts. Take some time to delve into start-up books, participate in area professionals’ clubs, and plug-in to one of the hundreds of online support groups specially designed for budding entrepreneurs. Unlike your previous educational and employment experiences, no one is going to “force-feed” entrepreneurship skills to you. Developing these essential skills is YOUR responsibility; ignorance is never an excuse. Therefore, take responsibility for expanding your business education by exploring the educational resources that lay so conveniently at your fingertips.
Launching a new business is not only time consuming, but it can be extremely draining. One of the best things you can do before launching out on your own is to do what I like to call “prepare the fort”. Wrap up any lose ends on the home front; try to set up your household and relationships on stable ground before adding a new business to the mix. While it certainly can be done, no new entrepreneur wants to be stressing over a lease one’s landlord refuses to renew, or a fractured loved life while trying to maintain enthusiasm about their new company. Do yourself a favor and get your personal life in as much order as possible before taking the plunge. Limit changes as much as possible and stick to routine when at home. Sounds boring, but anything to alleviate pressure from the home front.
The ups and downs of new business ownership can throw even the most stable person into a psychotic cycle of pure panic then exhilaration. If you’ve got an established support team, they can help buffer the swings; but when you’re out on your own such tactical interference will be up to you. Thus, I strongly recommend that solo start-up proprietors take an honest look at where they are in their life, and identify any potential areas of stress that could distract them from necessary business demands.
Invest in Hobbies:
Most entrepreneurs adopt this lifestyle mantra—work hard, play hard. Our passionate personalities tend to carry very wide interests, branching far beyond budgets and boardrooms. We LOVE to play. Like we invest in our career, we also invest in our hobbies—golf, airplanes, drag racing, sailboats, hunting, beach trips, etc. So when we’re not in the office, we can usually be found tinkering with our “toys”.
The majority of my trep friends were not met by attending exclusive regional B-clubs or professional associations. Instead, we were introduced when trotting alongside side by side chasing the cry of the hounds, or sampling exquisite wine variations at some of America’s finest wineries, swapping frostbite stories on the ski lift, or sharing post marathon puking experiences in the porta potty lines. It’s kind of counterintuitive—investing time OUTSIDE your business to ENHANCE your business—however, it WORKS.
Once my entrepreneurial pursuits gained some traction, I no longer had to “beg” for mentors—they simply came to me. If you’re currently looking at a one-man-band, don’t let the cautionary tale of solopreneurs scare you. Pursue your passions--even if that means going at it alone—developing your network along the way. And when you’re successful, consider providing mentorship for naïve newbies; ‘cause it’s a whole lot easier with the guiding light of experience!
Hannah Becker, serial entrepreneur and MBA student, is author of The Motivated Millennial: An Entrepreneurial Guidebook for Generation Y. Passionate about entrepreneurship, Hannah is committed to encouraging millennials to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams. Visit www.themotivatedmillennial.com for more information and resources to aide your entrepreneurial journey. Connect with @MotivatedGenY on Twitter.
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