The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg.
The most profound doubt that plagues majority of the aspiring entrepreneurs today is whether their venture will turn out exactly according to their plan or not. Most of us, while building our start-ups at times find ourselves lost, dejected and helpless. We often long for someone who can guide us along this journey of uncertainty.
The role of a mentor thus comes into play in such times of dismay. When Bill Gates and Warren Buffet met initially, both were equally reluctant to getting along with each other. In due course of time, Gates, who was highly impressed by Buffet’s demeanour, experience, and knowledge, took his shares of learnings. Buffet taught him to adopt an out of the box approach as far as Microsoft was concerned. Apart from business and technology management, Gates was highly inspired by the philanthropic ideals of Buffet. He learnt that other than being a business magnate and a technocrat, he had to adopt a reformative approach regarding the major world issues such as poverty, hunger, disease and so on. It does not therefore come as a surprise that Gates admitted Buffet to be one of his most revered mentors.
So, who exactly a mentor is? Why do we need her/him? Is he a teacher or a guide or a supposed messiah to put an end to the downward spiral of turmoil which most of the aspiring entrepreneurs often find themselves stuck into? So, lets dive deep into this intriguing mentor-mentee relationship to find the answers to our long-held queries.
Role of a Mentor
Broadly speaking, the role of mentor is highly diversified, and it is extremely difficult to enclose the same within fixed boundaries. Just as the problems faced by the businessmen and entrepreneurs cannot be generalised and are highly dynamic, same holds true for what the mentor does. Summing up precisely, a mentor, by using his own experience, guides the mentee in his pursuit of establishing an enterprise and provides solution to a plethora of difficulties that may arise during the entrepreneurial journey.
For the entrepreneurs who are fresh and bereft of practical experience, the best mentor is the one who advises them regarding their course of action, what they need to do, how it should be done, what precautions need to be observed, how risks can be calculated and so on. Furthermore, in such cases better look out for a mentor who belongs to the same field as you do, so that his experience can serve as your guidelines.
When JJ Abrams was aspiring to be a filmmaker, he looked up to Steven Spielberg for insights and guidance. As a young teenager he was fascinated by the creative genius of Spielberg and his storytelling acumen that could spellbound the audience across the globe. Spielberg was highly impressed by the filmmaking disciple that resided within Abrams and mentored him in several ways during his career. Whether it was the organisation of the movie budget or how the screenplay should advance or how the story gathers pace, Spielberg made sure that his advice would come in handy for Abrams. The duo even went on to create the 2011 flick Super 8, with Abrams directing and Spielberg producing the same.
The mentor might not always be someone on the sugary side. He can be a stern master and challenge his mentee by placing before him hard feats to accomplish. Everyone knows about the rigorous training that Chanakya subjected his disciple Chandragupta to, in order to transform him into a mighty force to be reckoned with, ultimately propelling him to take down one of the most powerful dynasties of the Ancient Bharat. Such kind of mentors who pose serious challenges to their mentees and make them undergo a core shaking training regimen, are best for those who want to be high achievers. Not only do such mentors develop the problem solving, technical and managerial skills within their mentees but also equip them to face all kinds of hardships in the course of their journey.
Many a times, entrepreneurs feel lost when facing a series of obstacles. They even get nightmares about their long-nurtured venture ending in a fiasco. In such circumstances they need mentors who can stir up their spirits and impart to them the anecdote to deal head on with the hardships. When things went downhill with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was taken aback, struck with the fear of his dream shattering to uncountable bits. It was then that Steve Jobs mentored him and made him recall what his true ambition was. Not only did he offered a professional mentorship to Zuckerberg but also conditioned him spiritually as to how such difficulties can be won over. Later on both acknowledged each other’s contribution in their professional and personal spheres.
There are times when we are technically competent, highly motivated, have a solid plan of action but lack in establishing meaningful connections essential for any business venture to have a wide reach. There are mentors who in such times provide us with suitable growth opportunities through networking, so that we can come in contact with successful business persons in the similar field and gain from establishing professional connections with them. “It’s all about being at the right place at the right time “, as the saying goes.
How to find a suitable mentor for yourself?
There are multiple ways through which we can find a mentor for ourselves depending upon the exigencies of time and situations. The options include:
- Our personal connections: One often overlooks what he already has at hand. Our close friends, our college alumni and even our revered professors, all can serve as our mentors. One should closely look for the people among them, who have ventured into a similar business that we are trying are hands at. You never know any one of them might turn out to be an excellent mentor for life.
- Social Media Platforms: One of the many takeaways of the social medias today is that people with similar interests, kindred accomplishments, identical domains, or common background as ours can be easily approached. While the options can be numerous and one needs to be a bit finicky in picking the most suitable among them, the potential of this source of mentorship can never be underestimated. The internet and magazines are filled with stories of how the social media can lead to encounters that transform into connections for life.
- Incubation Centres: One of the most sought-after choices, especially for the young entrepreneurs, are these powerhouses that give wings to the creative ideas of the aspiring business founders. With incubation centres mushrooming across the nation, the quest for finding a suitable mentor for yourself may well end-up in establishing meaningful mentor-mentee relationships.
- Professional Networking Associations: There are multiple online platforms that serve as the common ground for both the mentors and the mentees to find each other. While aspiring entrepreneurs look up to the mentors to gain valuable advice, insights and guidance regarding the intricacies of entrepreneurship, the experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals can also use their accrued knowledge and experience in guiding the mentees and earn a monetary benefit in return.
- Industry Meetups: Industrial meetups can be a goldmine of knowledge for those want to avail the mentorship in a particular industrial sector. Professionals with years of experience and knowledge often come together at such events which comprise of expert talks, informal meetups, trade exhibitions, brainstorming sessions etc.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears “. The role of mentor in the life of an entrepreneur, without an iota of doubt, is one of extreme importance and sanctity. The unpredictable journey of entrepreneurship, marked by a rough terrain of ups and downs, becomes a learning experience when you have mentor on your side.
The role of mentor is not to remove the hurdles and hardships in the course of your journey but to imbibe in you the professional as well as the ethical values, which can serve as powerful tools to tackle any unforeseen situation or difficulty. Mentorship enables the entrepreneurs to learn from the experience of someone else, adopting their success strategies while avoiding their mistakes. It should be noted here that a mentor-mentee relationship, in no way, undermines the sheer grind that every entrepreneur has to go through and the hard work that must be invested into the establishment of a business enterprise but it does make that grind an experience of immense learning and gets you to know about the ways in which that hard work can be substituted by smart work.
In short, a trainer can teach you all the required strokes for swimming but in the end it is you who has to ultimately descend into the waters to tackle the current. As Rev. R. Inman puts it, ‘A great teacher never strives to explain his vision—he simply invites you to stand beside him and see for yourself ‘.