“Whenever I am asked ‘what is the missing link between a promising business person and a successful one’ – mentoring comes to mind” - Sir Richard Branson
I am a huge supporter of having a mentor and of paying it forward. I have mentored individuals throughout my career as well as having recently been appointed as a Virgin StartUp mentor. In this article, I wanted to share my experiences so if you’re not already, you may be inspired to join the movement of people delivering and capitalising on mentoring to gain invaluable advice, guidance and support.
For me personally, without the necessary support networks that some of us take for granted, mentoring has been a constant since very early on in my life, seeing me reach out to anyone with more experience than myself and talking through my sticking points. If you think you have a great idea and a handful of people who you really respect tell you that it needs a different approach in order to be successful, you need to take that on board and adjust your vision accordingly – which I have needed to do many times already. I have been privileged enough and bold enough to ask to be mentored by a group of extremely successful entrepreneurs ranging from Dragons’ Den Investors to Secret Millionaires and their magnificent minds have made a huge difference in the way I approach life and business.
“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before”
We all reach a point in our development and the development of our businesses where we lack experience and have to step out of our comfort zones – this is the best time to call in the mentors. Although I will always have my own mentors, I'm a big believer in paying it forward and I have been working as a professional mentor to bright, entrepreneurial talent alongside my consultancy roles for many years. There isn’t much that the young entrepreneurs I work with want to talk about, that I haven’t had direct experience of but as a mentor, you don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to be willing to share what you know and if you don’t have the answers, you will more than likely know someone who does.
I have confidence that the most successful companies are those with the best leaders – and this is what has drawn me to my choice of mentors. I wanted to understand how businesses in the same space were outperforming each other and the answer that always comes in first place is leadership, which is then followed closely by ‘culture’. Great leaders are hardworking and ambitious people but it’s important to stay humble enough to know when you need to call in a fresh set of eyes. Ego doesn’t have much room here; the greatest leaders recognise that it’s OK to hire people into their teams who are better than they, people who have bigger and brighter ideas than they do for the ongoing development and long-term success of their businesses.
For many entrepreneurs working with a mentor is as much about personal development, as it is the business development. As the business changes as does the person running it. Entrepreneurs launch businesses, then as the business grows they become managers, but in order to create lasting success, they need to learn to become leaders.
So whether you need a mentor or can be a mentor – I would encourage any of you to go out and follow this mentoring trend and boldly seek out those who can help you or those who you can help. You’ve got to hustle – Nobody knows everything and there are people out there who have more experience than you, who have been through challenges before and who are willing to share their knowledge with you.
The impact of working with experienced advisers is endless, regardless of whether that’s in a personal or business space. Mentoring transforms businesses, brands and people – it’s as simple as that.
“So it’s not one mentor. It’s a constellation, a network of mentors who really amplify my abilities and knowledge in particular vectors.” - Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn
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