Starting, growing, and running a business come with a number of challenges for an entrepreneur, but of the most effective tools in empowering them is mentorships. Mentors and mentoring relationships act as perspective givers, cheerleaders, and confidants that can help guide an entrepreneur through all stages of their journey.
As someone who has been part of some startups and as the CEO of Mowgli Foundation, the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) region’s leading mentoring organization, here are my top seven mentoring tips for entrepreneurs that I have taken from my mentoring experiences:
1. Connect with why you do what you do
The budding entrepreneur needs to have three building blocks for success: emotional connection, passion, and values. These keep you going through the tough times when you feel lost, tired, and ready to give up. Be mindful of these building blocks and let them form your inner drive to keep you on track, because no one can take them away from you. Additionally, you will find that communicating these blocks to your audience can get you much further than you may think.
2. You can’t spell entrepreneur without “U”
As entrepreneurs, we have to be mindful of four main areas in our lives: our business, our family, our community, and ourselves. Though many are solid about being mindful of the first three things, we often forget about the one area that drives everything: ourselves.
By forsaking ourselves and neglecting self-care, we leave ourselves susceptible to lack of energy, disenchantment, and ultimately burnout. Take time out on a daily basis to do something for yourself to recharge, have fun, and slow down the mind. Go on regular retreats to get yourself out of the ‘cauldron’ and catch up on your business and personal life from a distance. Entrepreneurship is a long-term game and you need to be able to go the distance.
3. Listen, learn from, and respect failure as your teacher
An entrepreneur must have a developed sense to see and hear. Both of these senses combined enable us to truly ‘listen’ – this deeper level of listening will enrich your understanding, emotional intelligence, learning, as well as your ability to lead effectively.
Listen to and reflect on your failures, and be open to all forms of feedback from your peers, families, customers, and competitors because this will give you invaluable perspective. Use the opportunity to believe in yourself once more and empower you to take the actions that are right for your vision.
Failure is synonymous with entrepreneurship. Failing, regardless of the magnitude, means that you tried to do something, so there is no need to punish yourself for this bravery. Reflecting on these failures and developing a ‘contribution matrix’ can help you unlock the learning points for moving forward to greater success. Let it be your teacher rather than your inhibitor.
4. Don’t travel alone – choose and invest wisely in the people you have around you
As Jim Rohn once said, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Lift up your average by choosing and investing in people who empower, support, challenge, and mentor you.
By selecting team members who believe in your vision and are willing to contribute to the development of your internal culture, you are building a values-driven workplace. Strive to work with those who match or exceed your skill and knowledge gaps – they are not a threat, but rather a gift to be grateful for.
5. Build and leverage on your network, but don’t forget to give back
Networking and leveraging on your networks are key skills that every entrepreneur needs to develop. Networking allows you to become part of a community and to learn from the experience of others. This also keeps you open to previously unseen opportunities that may greatly expand your business reach.
Keep in mind however, that effective networking shouldn’t be a one-way street but rather the starting point of a mutually giving and generous relationship – whether it be through the giving of time, experience, or connections.
6. Know your vision, stay nimble, and learn to pivot quickly
Knowing your vision and having an adaptable strategy is a must to grow a business effectively. Because entrepreneurs must be nimble opportunists, it is important to develop a strategy that helps you accurately assess yourself so that you can better focus your attention, time, and energy.
The ability to adapt quickly to internal and external changes is crucial because it will help you to stay ahead of the game. As my father and founder of the Mowgli Foundation, Tony Bury, used to tell me, strategies A, B, C, D, E, F, and G are rarely the ones that work, so make sure you are ready to adapt when all of them fail.
7. Potential – Interference = Success
This is one of my favorite expressions and one that describes what Mowgli does so successfully. Every entrepreneur has such great potential, but there are always some factors that limit one’s growth potential. Once we identify and tackle our self-limiting beliefs while ridding ourselves of fears, we take that next step and push the boundaries of what we can achieve. Herein lies our path to success.
Kathleen Bury is the Chief Executive Officer of Mowgli Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs creating future jobs in the emerging economies of the Middle East and North Africa.