20th May, 2016
Starting a new business is full of challenges, opportunities and risks, and is a journey we embark on with trepidation and the hope that it will all work out OK in the end! Investing one’s own resources and/or borrowing comes with a degree of risk of failure which we should do our best to avoid, or at least reduce to a minimum.
Using an experienced mentor can be one way of helping us learn and develop new skills as well as get some constructive feedback on what we are attempting to do. Working for yourself can often be very different from working in a larger company. It can be lonely; it will almost certainly mean you have to work much harder than you probably would for someone else. So it can be stressful and if you haven’t anticipated all the things that could happen you may well end up regretting putting yourself in debt for no good reason.
The obvious answer is to spend some time on the ‘ homework’ trying to figure out if there really is a business to be done. Time and effort spent on researching your market place before you invest serious amounts of money will be well rewarded. Most new business owners do not do enough of this, thinking they have a good idea and customers will flock to their door! Probably not!
As well as preparing a thorough business plan having a mentor assist you to think through your idea can be invaluable. Using a mentor is a means of accelerating your learning by utilising the skills of a seasoned veteran who has been there and done that, probably several times over and made more mistakes than they will ever admit. This can be likened to an apprenticeship, where you observe the master, execute your tasks under supervision and gather feedback, gradually building knowledge which eventually results in mastery! Good performance in many companies suggests this means of investment pays off well. So why not use this experience when setting up a new venture?
A new business means you will take on roles you were not prepared for nor have knowledge about. These demands require new talents and, in the words of one well known executive coach, “What got you here won’t get you there.” (Dr. Marshall Goldsmith)
Mentoring is not the same as coaching. Executive coaches are often superb at providing skills upgrades and feedback on specific issues, but few will have actually done the job themselves. Mentors should be role models, who can offer their experience, wisdom and networks that are highly relevant to the problems in hand. Their experience does not have to be industry specific, but they should have relevant experience that the new entrepreneur can understand so that they have every confidence in the mentors abilities to help. This helps to build trust between mentee and mentor which over time will develop into a strong relationship separate from family and friends who don’t necessarily give you the most honest feedback!
Regular sessions with a mentor should be planned and entered on to the calendar of both mentee and mentor, giving the mentee the knowledge that any difficult topic can be discussed at the next meeting. The format should be driven by current business events with the mentee setting the agenda, and the mentor using their knowledge to illustrate similar circumstances elsewhere and tell stories about their experiences. There is a lot of evidence regarding the power of relevant storytelling, and done well it can greatly accelerate your ability to survive.
Written by Mike Gibbs, NBV Business Advisor, Mentor, and Coach
NBV Solutions Ltd is a Cavendish Enterprise partner delivering support to start up and growing businesses in the East Midlands
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