Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
One fatal mistake small business owners make time and again is they lack the willingness to ask for help or look for a mentor when they are looking to grow in new areas. Too many small business owners think “I know this industry and I’m very good at what I do. Why do I need to ask someone for help? What do they know that I don’t?” Yes, many small business owners do make it far, of course, however, when they want to reach a new level in their business, they often fail, because they go at it alone.
For instance, if you have one location and decide that you want to open four new locations in the next few years, and you have not previously done that, just get a mentor. If you generate one million in revenue annually and want to make that five million in the next two years, get a mentor. If you want to become successful in an industry that you have no experience in, yet feel you can generate good profits, get a mentor.
Mentors are one of the best ideas you can implement for developing your business success to reach new heights. Not only will they help you learn things you don’t know that will help produce positive results, but they will also help make the road to success far shorter for you than if you go at it alone. So, get a mentor!
But before you do, you’ll need to know what kind of mentor you’re getting. Are they an anchor, or are they a motor?
When you think of an anchor, you think of one that holds a boat in place and does not allow it to travel freely. People can be like that. In fact, people can be just like crabs in a boiling pot of water where, when one is getting out, the others reach up and pull it back in. It’s crazy, but people can also react bizarrely to your success. So, be careful when choosing a mentor.
A good example of anchors are friends and family members who are trying to be helpful. They are trying to help by telling you not to do something so that you won” have anything negative happen like losing money, hurt feelings, etc. But friends and family won’t always have the same mentality that business owners do. Business owners (you) are risk-takers and enjoy the thrill of the challenge and the unknown! Your mom, brother and sister and best friends don’t necessarily share this view, so they naturally tell you not to take chances.
Keep in mind that these people are doing what they think is best, so don’t get mad at them. It’s probably best to just not share your upcoming business ideas or ask them to be a mentor in any form. However, there is an anchor that is not a close friend or family member and is being negative and holding you back, perhaps an employee, and you should just get rid of them. Life is too short to deal with negative people.
When you think of a motor, you think of an engine that drives you forward from destination to destination, sometimes really fast! That is the type of mentor you need. A true mentor is someone who gets you to see both the larger picture as well as the small steps that trip you up. A true mentor is someone who has been down the road you are on and can help you reach your goals by avoiding the pitfalls they faced, as well as provide some shortcuts along the way.
A true mentor will pick you up when you’re down. A true mentor will put accomplishing your goals ahead of your feelings of temporary discomfort (you know, tough love stuff). A true mentor will help you take risks, but also help create a plan for success so that the risk can be mitigated. A true mentor teaches, advises, consults, motivates, inspires, provides information, provides guidance, provides resources, provides connections, holds you accountable and tells you want you need to hear, not what you want to hear. And above all, a true mentor will not hold you in place like an anchor but will push you forward towards success like a motor.
Here are a few ideas to help you with navigating through the anchors vs. motors when selecting a mentor:
Draw a line down a piece of paper and place on either side the words “anchors” and “motors” for each column.
Under each heading, place the names of people you know and work/associate with as either an anchor or motor.
If an anchor is extremely negative, count them out (I’ve done that. It’s always been a good choice).
Guide conversations with anchors away from your business activities.
Spend more time with your mentors.
Choose wisely with your business mentors.
Know that it’s okay to switch mentors at some point.
Know that it’s okay to have more than one mentor for different things.
Some mentors are free, others may cost you — like a business consultant.
Just because you have to pay, doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it.
You’ll find many mentors in B&I Groups, mastermind groups, Chamber of Commerce, etc.
Ask your network for referrals, or do an online search.