Failure is an inevitable part of life for entrepreneurs and growing business leaders. For some, it’s a more regular occurrence than others, while “luck” is often attributed to those more successful businesses.
Truth be told, when I think back to my successes and failures, I realise that I have learnt far more from my failures. As entrepreneurs, exploring new potential and unrealised business opportunities, we go where others often haven’t been before. We continue to learn from new, often daunting, challenges and successes are born out of huge risks.
So, how can we reduce the risks we take and pass on the knowledge from our failings, to ultimately help foster a more successful society?
The answer lies in mentoring.
What is the role of the mentor?
Mentoring, as a concept, is a simple one. At PushFar, our definition is “an individual sharing their knowledge, skills and/or experience to help others to progress”. This progression could be personal or professional, and as an entrepreneur and from conversations with fellow startup founders, I know all too well that the lines continually seem to blur between personal and professional.
Business giants who have either been mentored or are mentors themselves include Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. All hugely successful. Did you know, for example, that Steve Jobs mentored Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce?
Learning from failure
I’ve personally made a number of bad business decisions in my time, with previous startup companies which often spent money unnecessarily on things I was sure would help but, in the end, didn’t. I’ve made mistakes in almost every single area of business: in tactical and strategic sales decisions, branding, marketing and even at investment level. The list goes on and on. I am grateful for these failures now, though. They have helped me to take my business far further than the successes I had with my previous venture. They have saved our business huge costs in time, money and other resources too. It was through this that I realised mentoring for entrepreneurs was a far clearer and more valuable proposition than I had ever given it credit for.
What do you gain from mentoring?
I spoke about how much I have learnt from failure, but what if you could learn from the failure of others too and save yourself time, money and headaches that so often come with young and fast-growing businesses? This is the real power of mentoring.
In finding fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders who are either in a similar position or slightly further down the line than you, you will be amazed at what you can learn from them. You notice I talk about having a mentor who is in a similar position, and you might ask how someone like this could be a good mentor? However, they may well have tackled the challenges that you are facing last week.
Sharing knowledge can be so powerful and all it takes is a catch-up call or cup of coffee and a chat once a week, once a month, once a quarter. Mentoring is flexible, by its very nature. Typically mentoring relationships last for anywhere from six months to a couple of years but mentoring can be a one-time catch-up, or a sit down once a year for several years. It is what you and your mentor or mentee make of it.
What is involved in mentoring?
If you think that being mentored is the only way to learn, think again. You will be amazed at how much you will benefit from mentoring those entrepreneurs and business leaders who are only just starting out or are further behind in their journey than you are. When we mentor other people, we start to think about the important basics and challenges that we perhaps haven’t given thought to in several months. The basics that we may have skipped past, thought we got right at the time but have since changed. In mentoring others, you will begin to question the decision you previously made yourself; you may be questioned about things you haven’t even considered and ultimately you will gain a tremendous amount from it too.
I have to admit, when I began mentoring others, I was sceptical as to what I would get out of it myself. Honestly though, I now mentor several young entrepreneurs and have found the entire process hugely beneficial as well as, I am told, it being valuable to my mentees.
So, if you’re looking to achieve more, succeed and develop, it may just be worth finding yourself a mentor – and mentoring others too.
Ed Johnson is CEO of mentoring network PushFar