Getting into business is one of the most rewarding things anybody will undertake. But those thinking it’s a short cut to riches are often bitterly disappointed.
The reality is that starting and running a successful business is often a monumental struggle, especially for those new to the game. Few make it through the first year. However, it’s often the case that those embarking on this journey could do a great deal to ensure their survival by seeking out mentors.
I wouldn’t pretend that, at the still tender age of 32, I have achieved the kind of success that would make an episode of a CNN documentary on high achievers. But what I have done, in my own humble opinion and from my own humble beginnings, owes a great deal to the mentorship I’ve received.
Whether that’s educators in school and college, coaches in my chosen sport, gurus in my own personal and spiritual self-development or mentors in business.
Seeking out and obtaining the help of those who’ve traversed the business ground before you – getting their guidance and opinions on some of the most difficult decisions you make – has incalculable value.
These mentors were not easy to find. I do not possess any profound networking skills or natural social flair that would endear me to mentors willing to give up their valuable time to take me under their wings.
What I have had is the ability to ask for help when needed and the understanding that offering value is the best way to get that help.
Having the courage to ask for help isn’t easy for a lot of people but you’ll find that most successful people live in abundance – happy to share their knowledge with those seeking to traverse a similar path to them. However, there’s a fine line between seeking help and becoming an annoying burden.
What you’ll find is that people are far more motivated to help you when you freely and happily offer them something in return.
Here’s a case in point: Back in 2012 I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s an incredibly tough and gruelling sport and my gym was always full of students seeking the coach’s attention. Over the course of a couple of months I managed to prove to my coach that I was serious about the sport by attending at least three to four times a week, sometimes more, and making sure to attend any social events he organised. This included paying for one of his anniversary seminars and then attending a group dinner afterwards.
It was during one of these dinners that I had the opportunity to discuss with him his website. Having designed websites myself and become competent at marketing them via search engine optimisation, he was very interested in how he could use these skills to grow his own business.
Eventually I offered to do some work for him for free. When he saw that this instantly translated into more students in his gym, he made me an offer: I can train for free at the gym as long as I want and he’ll give me as many private one-on-one training sessions if I agreed to maintain his websites and use my SEO skills to get him more business.
The result was a very close and personal mentorship that landed me three medals at tournaments over the course of the next 12 months, including a silver at the British championships, as well as a lifelong friend.
Of course, your particular circumstances will be different and not everyone will be carrying the web design and marketing skills I had to offer. But in life, our paths cross that of highly accomplished and very useful people all the time. The secret to getting them on board is freely offering your value to these people without any undercurrent of wanting something in return.
From there it’s a simple case of using them as a sounding board for your own trials and tribulations and gaining their insight as and when needed.