One of the problems with business ownership right now is that there is a lack of mentorship. Sure, there is a lot of mentorship available from people who are a lot older, more experienced, and who have started and run businesses in a different era, but in the age of the internet, it’s hard to find people who you can relate to and who can relate to you in a meaningful way to help you along your entrepreneurial journey. That means that a lot of business owners don’t have anyone to look up to and to model themselves after close to home. It’s not a bad thing, it just means we need to celebrate the people who are breaking out and doing their own things more often.
Business ownership is not what it used to be. With today’s technology and ability to work from virtually (and literally) anyway, business owners come in all shapes and sizes are no longer just managers in office buildings counting the minutes until closing time. Business owners from previous generations were very focused on management of business, whereas today’s business owners are focused on growth and reach. Making an impact is as important to business owners as is making money. The motivations of today’s business owners are very different from those motivations of previous generations. Again, this can make it difficult for business owners to reach out and ask for help when they feel a disconnect from those who are working alongside them, perhaps in the same industry, but are approaching business from a different perspective.
What’s more, because business owners can work from anywhere, say a coworking space in Austin today, or a chalet in the mountains of Banff, Alberta tomorrow, it means more flexibility and reachability. Business owners who came up through the ranks over the last twenty or thirty years, in many cases, are still trying to convert their boots-on-the-ground business to a digital version. It’s hard to find ways to relate. However, if business owners that are just getting started are looking for mentorship, it’s important to reach out to these established and experienced business owners anyway.
There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that despite the industry or time in which one is operating a business, much of the underlying issues are the same. They might manifest in different ways, but they are essentially the same. Many business owners suffer from issues with self-confidence, management, employee hiring and firing, raising capital, and day-to-day operations. As long as both parties recognize the differences and are willing to try to apply them in new and interesting ways, a mentoring relationship might be more than effective. If you pretend that there’s no differences at all, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice and you’ll miss out on opportunities to collaborate, problem solve, and improve procedures. Having said that, if you don’t extend a hand and ask for the help you need, or if you think you don’t need help, you’ll also have problems in the long run. Nobody does this on their own. Every business owner needs help in some way from someone at some point in their career.
Another reason you might want to reach out and work with an established business owner, regardless of the time they got started, or evening they wrapped up their operation, is that you can learn a lot from the mistakes of others. If you leave the ego at the door and approach a potential mentor or advisor with questions that put their skills to use and give them the floor, and don’t make the mentoring relationship all about you, you’ll have a much more effective meeting and get a lot further than if you just bombard your mentor with questions and expect them to solve all your problems.
Mutual respect goes a long way in a mentoring relationship, and whether you are working with someone via the internet from thousands of miles away from each other or you are enjoying coffee at a local shop, you’ll find that mentorship is a two-way street and you need to give as much as you get. Whether you believe you have anything of value to offer people or not, just offering to listen to someone as they work through problems can go a long way to help them feel like they are getting as much as they are giving.