You’ve always dreamed of becoming your own boss, and after many years and years you’re finally about to do it. You have your idea and you’re ready to take action. Once your business plan is set, most would tell you the first step is to secure financing. Yet, there may be one other thing you should secure even before worrying about the how’s of becoming an entrepreneur, one thing that can significantly impact your future entrepreneurial endeavors: a startup mentor.
According to the infographic “Why Startups Fail” by the Startup Genome Project, only one in 12 startups succeed. A survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor showed that entrepreneurship rates increased almost 60 percent in the U.S. in 2011. People are certainly going into business for themselves, but why do so many of the new businesses fail? A startup mentor may be able to help answer that.
A startup mentor is just like it sounds: An individual who can provide mentorship to someone looking to be an entrepreneur because he or she is or was an entrepreneur. Sort of like the saying “it takes one to know one,” being mentored on the ins and outs of new business by someone who has experienced it firsthand can help you learn what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
We have all heard about the great benefits of having a mentor, especially academically. The same holds true for business. Having that one person who can help guide you along the correct path to entrepreneurial success is vital. Below are just eight of the many benefits of having a startup mentor—reasons to consider when planning to begin a new business.
This is a no brainer. A startup mentor is there to offer advice. Perhaps you have an idea for what you think is a great business, but you aren’t fully sure. A startup mentor can critique your business plan and offer suggestions on the best route to take to become successful.
Bouncing ideas off of your startup mentor is a great way for you to make necessary adjustments to your future business. Say you desire to open your own book publishing company. You tell your startup mentor this and he or she presents you with a list of questions: Where will the company be located? How will this location benefit or hinder book sales? What types of books will the company publish? Will the demand for this genre still exist once the company is finally established? Brainstorming with your mentor will help you dig deeper and cause you to find answers to questions you might not have previously considered important.
The mentor is there to give you a real-life example. It’s especially important to have a startup mentor who created or has a business similar to the type of business you want to run to ensure his or her experience is relevant to you. You can study and research, but someone who has lived it can offer the necessary insight into the business field a book or report cannot. They can help you create your business plan, choose the best location and financing options. Mentors can inform you about legalities in business, state and local taxes, obtaining licenses and permits and how and when to register your business’s name.
Mentors are also able to forewarn you about things. People always make mistakes and learn from them. As an entrepreneur, you will too, but a mentor can help you avoid some mistakes that could be costly or irreversible. As they say, experience is the best teacher.
One of the most important parts of having a mentor is having a support system. The entrepreneurial path is filled with bumps and pitfalls; it is not an easy road. You are going to need someone to keep pushing you, hold you accountable and offering encouragement for rough times.
Sometimes, no one else will seem to understand. No one will get it when you keep trying even after you’ve failed again and again. People may think your idea is useless or believe it’s unoriginal or will be too hard to accomplish. A startup mentor is there for you to confide in and have someone to talk to. Vent, laugh, cry, get angry and celebrate with him or her; facilitating communication is the reason the mentor is there.
Because a startup mentor has 1) created a business in the past or 2) currently is an entrepreneur, he or she will be able to connect you with other important people. Fellow entrepreneurs, sponsors, donors and other sources of funding, and key people within your industry will all help to build your network and can all be available to you through a mentor’s network.