You might have the greatest start-up idea or have strong financial backing to kick-start your business, and to add to that, you might also have the knowledge and industry experience to get started on your entrepreneur journey, but ask yourself this: wouldn’t you rather ALSO have someone like a guide who could help you, or support you through the whole process of becoming a successful business owner?
A good mentor is what you need! They help you think through the start-up phase with a more experienced outlook; suggest ways to do things the right way and sometimes also help you with necessary industry knowledge or know-how that you might be missing. A mentor is someone who understands your perspective or perhaps has walked the same path that you decide to embark upon. A good mentor will be there to motivate you and identify your achievements and also give you a cautious heads up when crisis strike.
Here are a few points to remember while finding a mentor:
Be ready to be mentored: This is one of the most necessary characteristics of a wannabe entrepreneur. If you have an “I know it all” attitude then you are not open for coaching or mentoring. If you want to learn and grow fast, then you should be willing to consider ideas that may not match your expectations or opinions. Your business ideas and approach might be perfect for you, but another viewpoint will help you get a broader perspective about the situation, and will help you make the right move.
Networking is Key: As an entrepreneur, networking should be your second nature. Your approach towards networking should not be just to build customers or associates, but to find people who you could learn from, people you think could be potential mentors for you. Remember, networking is not about sending bulk email or handing out business cards to people you meet at a seminar or an event, it’s about making the effort to connect with people, collaborating, learning and adding value.
A good mentor is someone who has had success as an entrepreneur: According to statistics, the very best mentors are usually those who have been or are entrepreneurs themselves. A good mentor is someone who has walked the path of entrepreneurship and has gained the required experience, which is not long ago. Such mentors have been through the phases that you are going through and genuinely want you to succeed as well. In a typical situation, you should be able to see yourself “succeeding” the same way your mentor is today.
Thank your mentors and Pay it forward: It is always important to acknowledge and thank people who have helped you. Generally a good mentor would not be in it for the money, but would want others to grow. It is important to find ways to thank your mentor for all the support and help they provide you. Last but not the least, try to pay it forward i.e. you may never be able to pay your mentors back, but you can recognize what they have done for you by becoming a mentor to others.
Often the image of a modern day entrepreneur is someone who is a college dropout with a high inclination towards technology, social media and smartphones – typically a male in his 20s! However, recent study shows that over half of the upcoming entrepreneurs from last year were all 40 and older.
According to the study conducted by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit, entrepreneurs who were over 40, faced “age bias” on the part of investors and clients.
The reason: older entrepreneurs have a tough time getting the attention of investors, especially in the Internet and mobile industry. Many believe that older entrepreneurs—folks who really didn’t grow up with smartphones and social media—don’t have the zeal or intuition that is necessary to make the brilliant viral consumer-tech companies and apps of tomorrow.
The flip side: Younger entrepreneurs, who have never even had a job, find themselves sought after by investors, venture capitalists and all sorts of other sources of capital, apparently because in this new internet savvy economy, young founders make up for their lack of corporate and management experience with a mastery of the new world of technology, therefore attracting interest from investors.
How important is experience and reputation?
If experience and reputation are the foundation of an entrepreneur’s skill set, then age will eventually become a true advantage. One crucial advantage of age is the experience gained from years within one or more industries. Not to mention, building a solid reputation takes years, and older entrepreneurs are at an advantage as they have established reputations within their space.
Innovation has no age requirements!
As we all know that the key element of innovation is to challenge authority and break rules, so today’s youth doesn’t hesitate to question the norms, think outside the box and come up with unthinkable ideas, but such ideas are not the only foundation of a successful enterprise. Its more about translating these innovative ideas into successful ventures, for which you would need to manage teams, understand markets, collaborate and obtain financing, all of which can only be achieved with experience and time.
So the point is that young ideas go hand-in-hand with appropriate industry experience and market knowledge. In the coming years, we will see a shift in the age group of entrepreneurs. Early 30s seems to be the ideal age as it comes with experience, adequate industry knowledge and young mindset.
“A unique combination of breaking rules and being smart will help you become an entrepreneur.”
According to a recent research by economists Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein, at the National Bureau of Economic Research: “Smart, rule-abiding teenagers are less likely to become successful entrepreneurs than equally intelligent teens who engage in illicit activities.”
Here are a few findings from the research:
– Self-employed workers and entrepreneurs were more likely to engage in illicit and risky activities as youth than were salaried workers. These behaviors include but aren’t limited to shoplifting, marijuana use, playing hooky at school, drug dealing and assault.
– The self-employed workers exhibited greater self-esteem, scored higher on learning aptitude tests and were more likely to come from high-earning, two-parent families than other employment types.
– Self-employed workers who have incorporated their businesses show the intent to start a new, profitable venture and are therefore more representative of entrepreneurship than those who haven’t incorporated their businesses.
– Such self-employed workers with risk-taking tendencies in combination with high self-esteem make successful entrepreneurs but are sometimes prone to dangerous lapses in judgment.
– The research also shows that individuals who left their salaried jobs to start their businesses, worked more hours and also earn more per hour than other employment types.
– Last but not the least, growing student loan burdens has been killing startup dreams for many young people. So people try to stick to salaried jobs to pay off their loans, but sometimes it gets too late to venture into self-employment.
At the end, the research suggests that entrepreneurship pays off. It gives more self satisfaction and is more rewarding & encouraging for personal growth. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy task and does not happen overnight. It involves continues learning, innovation, the right know-how and the ability to take risks.
We might be prepared with the bigger picture, but do we have the right knowledge and tools to manage the intricate functions of running a business? Simple things like bookkeeping, managing payroll, budgeting, recruitment and marketing could eventually pose as unmanageable activities.
If you’re thinking of starting a business, consider becoming a student of entrepreneurship before you start driving it. There are a host of free and low-cost options for quickly getting up to speed on business basics no matter where you live—from workshops offered through public libraries to online classroom based training over the Web.
There are numerous benefits to start learning the basics: First thing, you get to network with like minded folks who are also trying to learn the ropes. Secondly, you get to know what are the currents trends and tools in the market.
You don’t need to enroll in a four-year college, do an MBA or learn by trial and error. All you need to do is to find some free online tools and resources that can help you get started. Many colleges and universities offer continuing education programs for basic subjects such as human resource, organizational behavior, account & payroll, strategic management, project management etc. We just need to dig out the right resources that will equip us with the necessary knowledge and tools that are required to manage a business.
Here are a few online resources for entrepreneur education:
Udemy – Whether you want to get promoted, break into a new industry, start a company, further a passion, or just accelerate your life, Udemy helps you learn from the amazing instructors in the world, so that you can get there and get there faster.
Coursera – An education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Their technology enables their partners to teach millions of students rather than hundreds.
Stanford Online – The vision of Stanford Online is to continue Stanford’s leadership in providing high-quality educational experiences to its students and to people around the world by unleashing creativity and innovation in online learning.
Udacity – Their mission is to bring accessible, affordable, engaging, and highly effective higher education to the world. They believe that higher education is a basic human right, and they seek to empower their students to advance their education and careers.
MIT OpenCourseWare – is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. The course ware is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.
Apart from the above there are many other resources and courses available on a ton of topics from amazing schools and teachers online. With start-ups happening every day, business owners and entrepreneurs should sit back and think about their areas of learning.
We should never forget that knowledge is always power!