When you’re a startup developing fast, you need the Wonderbra of mentoring and networking at your disposal. No entrepreneur is an island, and even if you start off as a one-man show, there will come a time when you need a helping hand.
The stronger your network, including mentors, the stronger you and your business will become. I’ve personally had several mentors over the years and most recently with my invoicing companyÂ Due I’ve taken it to the next level. Take a look at this video from StartupGrindÂ to hear what some of the most successful entrepreneurs aroundÂ have to say about theirÂ support networks. Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn fame says, â€œI think it’s important to kind of seek mentors, but the way you seek them is through the natural operation of your life.â€ Just like dating, you can’t force it.
â€œHave somebody you need some advice from,â€ he says. â€œFor example, go to the people who know you and trust you and would refer you to other people and say, â€˜Who are the top one to three people I should meet?’â€
However, it doesn’t stop there. When approaching someone new, even with a connection, find out a way you can help or serve them. Once you find your â€œinâ€, Hoffman says, â€œIf that conversation goes well, then have another because mentorship happens naturally.â€
An Organic Beginning
DuckDuckGo’s Gabriel Weinberg says, â€œI definitely think this getting a mentor thing is real,â€ however he doesn’t think it needs to be a lifetime partnership. Some mentorships do last forever, but more often than not it is a short-term relationship that benefits both parties. â€œThis is probably the best advice: Go talk to people who failed at what you’re doing,â€ he recommends. You’ll find them in spades, and they’ve already learned all those tough lessons for you. If you can learn from the mistakes of others, you can avoid a lot of stupid faux pas yourself.
Don’t assumeÂ mentors are necessarily more successful than you. You can learn a lot (even a lot more!) from those who have failed than from those who have succeeded. As an added bonus, the ones who have failed are often a lot more accessible. Look at your startup and the history of its space overall, urges Weinberg. â€œI’m always surprised by how many people don’t know the history of their own space.â€ It’s rich with lessons, tips, and warnings, and it’s all there for the taking.
Strength in Numbers
â€œIt feels better to give,â€ says Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures. It’s one of the reasons he became a venture capitalist in the first place. â€œWhen you do something nice for someone and you expect nothing in return, that feels good,â€ he says. Remember that when talking to investors and potential mentors alike. Everyone likes to do good, but don’t forget about gratitude. It can work wonders.
Startup America’s Steve Case says you should always start any venture by asking yourself, â€œWhat am I trying to get done?â€ Remember that everyone’s most valuable asset is time, including yours.Â Go into anything, whether it’s a networking event or meeting with a mentor, with a mission. Using your time effectively is â€œreally importantâ€, says Case, and yet so few people do it well.