When I went into business for myself, I was 41 years old; not quite a young guy. I got into the game and decided I was going to do something that was totally different from what I’d done in the past as a career. Not sure whether it was a good idea or not, but it’s what I did.
I got very little advice when I went on my own. Truthfully, I didn’t know anyone to talk to. I could have used someone to talk to from time to time, to ask questions and to share what I was going through, but I knew no one.
After about a year, I joined a local chamber of commerce and went to an event where they talked about the concept of having a mentor. I really hadn’t thought much about it before, but I had kind of a mentor in my past career. A friend who decided to take a interest in what I was doing. He was always there if I needed to ask a question, or to protect me if he saw something was going on in the background that he didn’t agree with. Over the years, he’s been a person I could call at any time to discuss anything; in a way, he’s pretty much my mentor.
At the same time, what I didn’t want, or need, was someone to tell me how to do everything every step of the way. I wouldn’t have responded well to someone telling me how to do things, or to do things exactly how they did them. That’s not quite my style, though I know some people who will say that they found someone, followed exactly what they did, and became very successful. That’s not my style, but it points out that a mentor means different things to different people.
Strangely enough, after almost 9 years in business, I have become a mentor of sorts for many people. That’s because I have never turned down the opportunity to talk to anyone about business principles, or things they may or may not want to do in business. I have spent as little as 10 minutes talking to someone on the phone, or as much as 3 hours talking to someone over lunch; always willing to talk to someone over lunch, especially if they’re paying. 🙂
I have a few people who I can call if I need to ask some questions, or run something by, whose opinions I trust. In a way, it’s a mentoring type of relationship, which I reciprocate when they need the same.
Never think that someone else is so much the competitor with you that they don’t deserve some of your time. Remember the “pay it forward” theory of life. I tend to believe that you get back as much as you give. It’s happened in my business life, and it will happen in yours.
Are mentors overrated? Not on your life.
Mitch Mitchell is a business consultant that helps businesses with employee issues, especially management, leadership and diversity.
Mitch can be found at http://www.ttmitchellconsulting.com/