All posts in start-ups

Share on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInShare on Twitter

Entrepreneurship is learning that never ends. So most entrepreneurs will tell you that at least one great teacher or ‘mentor’ was a key to their success along the way. In fact, even the most accomplished entrepreneurs never stop being on the lookout for new mentors. We should, too.

But what should we be looking for? What you should be expecting when you find one? Here’s what we’ve learned from experience:

You’re not looking for a tutor. The kind of mentor you want–a successful, busy person–won’t be able to give you that kind of time. In fact, some of the people we’d consider our greatest mentors we might have only talked to once or twice in our careers—but the advice was so right at the right time, it caused a critical inflection point. So it’s quality not quantity. A mentor sees what you don’t see, knows what you don’t know—not because they’re smarter–but because they’ve got thousands more swings at the plate than you have. They’ve simply seen more patterns and connected more dots. But most of all–they see your problem from outside—an awesome perspective that you could never get unless you’re prone to having out of body experiences.

Mentors need you as much as they need them. Human beings have an instinctive need to pass the knowledge they treasure to the next generation. Mentors are successful people who are grateful for their success and know they owe their own mentors for it. They’re looking for someone to give it back to. They’re looking for you. So take the pressure off yourself–if you keep looking, asking and talking to people, you’ll find each other.

Mentors don’t work for hire, so you can’t just point and choose any mentor you want. Like any personal relationship, you can’t force it–there needs to be a little chemistry for both of you. It’s one more reason entrepreneurs are always on the lookout because like the loves of your life, the mentors of your life don’t come along every day. But they are there, in places you might never have expected to encounter them. They are always attracted by honest and sincere motives and mission.

Mentors may have great answers and advice—but ultimately they can only give you one kind: their answers—from their lives, their businesses and their unique circumstances. These may or may not prove to be yours. The ultimate answers for you are the ones you teach yourself by doing, feeling and internalizing on your own personal journey. Olympic Gold Medal winner Michael Phelps can tell you everything there is to know about swimming. But you have to jump in and get wet to understand it. A skydiving champion can teach you all about skydiving—but not what it feels like step through your own fear, step out that door into open space, and fly one time. Mentors can guide you and coach you, even save you years of trial and error with a single big bit of wisdom. But only you can truly teach you. Mentors are marvelous. But only motion is magic.

Share on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInShare on Twitter

July 3: Here’s the whole interview with Graham talking about The UnStoppables with Betty Liu on Bloomberg TV In the Loop, broadcast nationally at 8am EST each day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ojc4a8wBAc. Graham was UnStoppable as Betty–for good measure– attempted one slight confrontational shot about half way through. Graham caught the ball in mid-air and smacked it down the base line for the score. Made it look easy.

For all of you who plan to be interviewed on national TV someday, the satellite interview format from a remote location is never a piece of cake. You sit in a studio, looking at a blank camera lens with no monitor so you can’t see the host as you would in any normal conversation. You have an earpiece to hear the questions in one ear, that’s all. And there’s a slight delay to boot. They turn on your feed, the inteviewer says “hello” and bam, you’re live! No second takes.

Thanks Graham for showing us all how it’s done. As Snooks Kelley the legendary Boston College hockey coach used to say: “He put on a clinic.”

B

Share on Facebook+1Share on LinkedInShare on Twitter

Someone asked us recently– “What are the top three pieces of advice you’d offer to entrepreneurs on how they can best prepare loved ones for their journey into starting up?

My immediate reaction was: “Just tell them your idea, why you need to do this and show them the true passion your have for following your dream. Loved ones by definition will yearn for you to follow it, not to hold you back.”
“Not with these loved ones, the person said. These are my parents. And they always wanted me to go to Dental School!” They think a “start-up” is when someone gives you jumper cables for a dead battery. And then they’d worry about the legal liability.”

You’re going to need some extra horsepower, I said. Here might be a good top three in your particular case:

Number 3:
Show up for the talk in a pink feather boa and high heeled pumps if you’re a guy–wearing combat boots and motor cycle leathers if you’re a girl. Then say: “I’ve got something I’ve needed to talk to you about for a really long time.” Lord knows what they’ll be expecting.  When it’s only that you’re quitting your six figure job and mortgaging your house to start your own business, they’ll jump up and hug you for it.

Number 2:
Tell them it was either this or the witness protection program.

Number1:
Make your mother the CFO.

Beyond that– Trust your loved ones to support you when they see your dream is stronger than your doubt. You’ll find that even the most pessimistic family members secretly admire anyone who steps into the arena, seeking to maximize their own lives and the lives they’ll touch with a successful business. The only difference between those who succeed and those fail is that the successful failed to listen to the 97% of friends and family who initially advised “no.”

Bill Schley