When you first start a business, it can seem like you have set off on an exciting, but often lonely and dangerous journey. However, smart entrepreneurs will quickly learn to depend on others for reassurance, advice and a push in a more profitable direction.
Finding the right mentors for you and your business can help to ease the load you are carrying and provide a greater chance of success for fulfilling your dream. In my experience starting a successful fashion retail boutique, there are four types of mentors every entrepreneur should seek:
1. The Experienced Mentor
An experienced mentor is someone that sticks with you long-term through the process of starting and growing your small business. Therefore, he or she should be someone you can trust and know that they care about your long-term success. This mentor should also have field experience (e.g. he or she has taken the steps you have to take –once or several times) which has taught them how to be successful.
Sometimes, this type of business mentor is easy to find if you already have family members, friends or acquaintances with entrepreneurial experience. However, if you are not already acquainted with someone, it is still possible to find an experienced mentor. Networking is the best place start. Before attending a lunch or networking event, decide on the type of mentor you are looking for and don’t settle until you have found the right person.
2. The Temporary Expert
As you put yourself out there and engage in your local business community, you will come across many opportunities to engage with experienced experts. While you may be unable to connect with them long-term, take a chance to learn from these experts every chance you get.
Some may offer entrepreneurial advice while others may have great advice on online marketing, sales, design or simply staying sane. Whatever their expertise, listen and be open to new ideas that are different from your own. Be sure to connect with both men and women mentors, as their leadership styles tend to vary.
3. The Critic
If you haven’t already, you will come across someone who is critical of your business idea. While I don’t advise surrounding yourself with negativity all day, it is worth it to listen to criticism and analyze it for any useful insights.
It’s an unfortunate fact that you and your friends may be blind to some potential pitfalls in your business model, so use those people who are willing to be critical to check for any weaknesses in your plan. Once you have identified any problems, turn them around to make your idea a success.
4. The Friend Who Knew You When…
Finally, stay in touch with a friend who knew you before you started your business. This person can help keep you grounded as to why you became an entrepreneur in the first place and help keep you on track to fulfill your dream. This friend is also important because he or she can help you to remember that life is about more than a career — acting as a gut check to make sure you really are happy with who what you have become.
What other types of mentors should entrepreneurs seek out? Let me know in the comments section below.
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Photo: Tommy Hilfiger
Fernanda Bohme is the founder and Owner of Bohme Boutique, a Utah-based clothing and accesssories retailer. Fernanda started her fashion retail business in her home in 2006 and is now planning on opening 40 stores by 2014. She loves fashion and the retail industry.