Starting out in business is not for the faint hearted. Those early days of running your own business are hard work, and anyone that has been there will tell you the same. It takes passion, commitment and plenty of late nights. Even with your family or your friends supporting you, it can be a lonely and intense journey. They might be your biggest fans, but the reality is that they probably don’t really understand how hard you are working or how tired you are feeling, or even sometimes what exactly you are trying to achieve. The reason they don’t and won’t be able to understand all of that, is because they are not doing it themselves (unless of course, you are lucky enough to have a family of entrepreneurs….And let’s be honest, that isn’t the majority of us).
Still want to give it a go?…If yes, then you are cut from the same cloth as the rest of us crazy entrepreneurs and business leaders and I have at least one way in this blog that can help you in your business journey.
So, you’ve got your business idea.
You know what it is you want to achieve.
You have seen others achieve it so you know it’s possible.
You have started a business plan and done all the market research.
You have even felt depressed because those already doing it seem to be doing it so well, and you’re not sure how your idea stands out from theirs.
Those around you have told you, you are crazy, and;
you have just given up your full time job.
Now you are sat with the days ahead of you staring at your computer screen wondering what the hell you are supposed to do next. The world suddenly feels massive and you suddenly feel like you did when you left home for the first time. To top it off, everyone else is at work, so you can’t even call them to have a moan.
Have you had that moment yet? I had it several times when I started out, and I was only twenty one with no responsibilities and having just left University with the student belief that I could achieve anything because I had a degree behind me (yes, I was naive, but it got me quite far too). But don’t worry I still feel like that regularly. I feel it every time I start a new service in my business, or every time I finish a contract with a client and have to look for a new one. In fact, it’s usually what drives me to make the thing I’m doing successful…Don’t worry, you are not alone!
So, how do you get past this moment or the future moments that are going to happen in the next few months?
Find yourself a business mentor. For me, I did this through a very big middle class church that I was attending at the time. But you can do this through a range of means, and I have since had other mentors and coaches that I have found from a range of places, including free local government schemes, Linked-In and other free mentoring programmes. You don’t need to pay lots for the privilege and for many business people they want to give back to their local community.
If there is someone you admire running a business in your community, start by asking them for a coffee and let them know that you are on the look out for a mentor. They might know someone suitable for you, or they might offer to do it themselves. But start with that coffee, and ask them for their advice. Us business leaders love to give out our advice, it makes us feel like we know what we’re doing. So take advantage of it and seek it out.
But what if you don’t have that local business person you admire? Start with a google search. Find out if there are any free programmes near you, or maybe if you’ve just graduated, your university may have a graduate programme that pairs you up with a mentor. Business leaders often connect with programmes or universities to give back to the community. I love to work with both of the Universities I graduated from, and offer my skills to their students. It not only benefits my business and gives me access to graduates, but it also enables me stay in close contact with the Universities, should they have any opportunities I think would benefit me or my business.
Once you’ve found where you might find your mentor, make a list of things you want from them. It’s not a good idea to waste your time or someone else’s just because they have offered it to you, if you are not getting anything helpful from it. For me, I was very clear on what I wanted, and my list was long. It consisted of a female business leader, with a family but also a successful business (because we women can have both!), someone with a faith (an important part of who I am), and someone that understood creativity and what I wanted to achieve.
I was paired up with an amazing individual Faye Smith, who runs www.keepyourfork.co.uk. That was ten years ago, and although over the years the relationship has changed from less ‘mentoring’ and more ‘friendship’ she is still very much my go to person when I need some help, advice or just someone to tell me that I can do it and what I want is totally possible (or in some cases that it’s not possible and I need to get real). Over the years I have trusted Faye with my business ideas, with my team in my business and as a friend. When you meet your mentor for the first time, if you don’t feel that you could be open and honest about your business with them, then I would question going further with that person. Find someone that understands your industry, but isn’t necessarily competition. The last thing you need is to be worrying about whether they will pinch an ideas for themselves (sounds harsh, but competition is a reality of business, so you always need to be aware of that).
So, I had quite a special business mentor relationship, and I have had others that have passed through my business according to my needs at any particularly moment. But, if you are clear on what you want and need, you can find someone that gets what you do and is willing to build that relationship with you that will support you in the ways necessary. And more importantly, someone that can cheer you on when you need it. If you go into it with no clarity on what it is you want to achieve from your relationship, and no trust, then you won’t achieve anything. It’s important to know how you think that mentor can help you and what your specific needs are in that moment. Do you need help with a business plan? Do you need help finding networks to connect with, or people to sell your product or idea to? Do you need a marketing strategy or to understand the modern ways of marketing on the web?
I was clear that I wanted someone that I could look up to and that could journey with me, support me with developing my business and marketing it correctly and introduce me to networking circles. Faye has definitely given me all of that, and so much more. I will forever be grateful for every ounce of time she has given me. I try to never take her precious time for granted, and that is something that you should bare in mind when being with your mentor. If they tell you that they have a certain time frame to spare, respect it and make sure the session ends in that time frame. They will thank you for it!
So instead of staring at your computer screen and searching for blogs and posts on the web that will give you the magical answers (which, by the way don’t exist, because every business is different and every individual is different. One size rarely fits all), open up a new google page and start typing in ‘local business mentoring programmes’ or ‘business mentors’. Start with a real person that you know has felt the same worries and built a network they can introduce you to over time. Start with something real and build that relationship that can help and support you.