Why do the best business owners have a mentor?

Ian Mitchell Blog

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

But surely, you say, when you’ve got a hugely successful business the last thing you need is advice. No. The reason they got that 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 differently and move it 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 is no simple answer, because every business owner is different, with different demands, different personalities, different stages in the growth cycle. 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 one thing is clear. By having an external adviser to talk to and debate your actions and aims, it ensures your business is going through constant examination under the watchful eye of a trusted professional. It ensures you don’t stand still. It challenges you to re-think where you are now, and how to move forward.

Mentors give momentum.

All business owners can benefit from a mentor, but particularly those that have scaled their business to a size where they need extra impetus to achieve 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 just won’t work.

All areas of your business will have changed from the day you first started. Sales, operations, marketing, cash and talent will all have evolved as you’ve grown. To scale your business further will require a different strategy to the one you’ve currently got on the table. And that’s where a mentor can step in.

An outside adviser will take a dispassionate view of where you are and what you need to do to move forward. It’s not that what you’ve done in the past is wrong. It’s that your business approach will need to change in the future. Every established business goes through this. And that is why the owners of companies as big as Apple, Facebook and Tesla still seek outside advice.

But how do you know your mentor will give you the right advice and support? It’s like hiring talent. Begin by asking these questions- does this person have experience in my business field? Do they have the right qualifications? Are they someone who’s been recommended by people I trust? Have they 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 lot worse than making some diary time for them.

Of course, you could just go it alone and stick to the path you’re going down. But that’s a risk. Is it one you’re prepared to take? It’s worth sleeping on.

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.