Can a mentor help you scale up?

The founders of Google, Virgin, Microsoft, Dyson and Apple. What did they all have in common, apart from building incredible companies and being richer than Croesus? They all had mentors.

But surely, you say, when you have a hugely successful business the last thing you need is advice. No. The reason these founders became so successful is that they each listened to and acted upon external advice from people they respected and trusted. It helped them look at their business and the marketplace differently and move forward.

This is not just true of the business arena, successful people the world over have had mentors. How about this for a list of high-achievers: Vincent Van Gogh, Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Cindy Crawford, Christopher Nolan. They all had mentors to help them further their careers.

Sometimes the influence of a mentor can be enormous. Take the case of James Dyson. He says this of his mentor, artist Maurice de Sausmarez:

At that time, I wanted to be a painter. It had never occurred to me that there were other options open to me – but suddenly, there was Maurice telling me that I should be a designer. Luckily, Maurice had a good deal more insight into my passions than I did. Almost 50 years later I have built a global technology company on Maurice’s instinct that I would make a good designer.

A mentor had a huge influence on the career of James Dyson, so what can a mentor do for you? There’s no simple answer because every business owner seeking scale up is different. They have different demands, different personalities, different customers, different markets, and are at different stages in the growth phase. It also depends on what you’re looking for. A mentor can help in many different ways: creating a better work/life balance, dealing with pressure, accepting new ideas, challenging the status quo, looking for new opportunities, re-evaluating your purpose, seeking a competitive advantage.

But whatever your aim, one thing is clear, by having an adviser to talk to and debate your actions and goals, it ensures your business goes through constant examination under the watchful eye of a trusted professional. It means you don’t stand still. It means you don’t get complacent. A mentor will challenge you to re-think where you are now, and what you need to do to move forward.

Mentor gives momentum.

All business owners can benefit from a mentor, but particularly those that have built their company to a size where they need extra impetus to scale up. This is actually the moment when you need a mentor the most. That’s because as your business grows, you experience a completely different set of challenges to what you’ve known before. Applying the same methodology to when your business was smaller simply won’t work.

Your business will have changed enormously from the day you started. Sales, operations, marketing, cash and talent will all have evolved. You yourself will have changed. You will have learned a lot, but you’ll also have realised that you can’t fix everything. To scale your business will require a different strategy to the one you’ve currently got on the table. And that’s where a mentor can help.

An outside adviser will take a dispassionate view of where you are and what you must do to take your business to the next phase. That’s why the owners of companies like Apple, Facebook and Tesla still seek outside advice. They don’t regard seeking help as a sign of weakness. They see it as a sign of strength.

But how do you know your mentor will give you the right advice and support? You can begin by asking these questions –

  • Do they have in-depth experience of my business field?
  • Do they have the right qualifications?
  • Are they someone who’s been recommended by people I trust?
  • Have they the experience of running their own successful business?
  • Do they understand me and what I’m looking for?
  • Will they be open and honest with me?
  • Are they the sort of person I could enjoy spending time with?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to all or most of these, you could do a lot worse than making some diary time for them.

Of course, you may be happy with the path you’re currently going down. But it pays to stop once in a while and take stock. Ask yourself –

  • Is this the best path?
  • Is there a better way forward?
  • Is there a quicker route?
  • Is there one that will cause less pain?
  • Is there one that will produce greater rewards?

The right mentor will help you answer these.

Take your first step to benefiting from an external perspective by taking the Certainty Score, it will take you three minutes and the insights are fascinating.