Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

Get a Fresh Perspective

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment. John Wooden

During difficult times we tend to get so caught up in our problems that we begin to lose sight of the bigger picture. We keep putting out multiple small fires without really finding their root cause. This leads to feelings of frustration and helplessness. Whenever I have been through times like these, I have found getting a fresh perspective from an outsider very helpful. This could come from a mentor, a business coach or even from individuals whom you hold in high regard in your network. They are able to provide you with advice and feedback on your current situation by looking at the bigger picture. What has always been most helpful for me during these sessions was the ability to put things back into perspective. We often tend to make situations appear a lot worse than they actually are.

Some major advantages you can enjoy with a business coach or mentor are:

1. Experience: Being relatively new to business, there are many things I am not fully aware of. My mentors have always been a source of wealth and information regarding difficult situations. This also has the ability to help you avoid making the costly errors they may have made in the past.

2. Accountability: A leader/coach helps creates an entity you have to be accountable to. They are there to push you on when you become complacent and quick to tell you what you may be doing right or wrong. This has often provided me  with the motivation to push myself harder and achieve results that I may not have without them.

3. Networking: Lastly if your mentor or coach is well connected they instantly become a channel for quality referrals which can boost revenues during slow times. I have repeatedly tapped into this network to generate leads and business when other avenues were not performing up to mark.

Where does one find these coaches and mentors? Well I did it through networking when I was at university, through events, workshops and seminars. I also researched individuals who had excelled in the same industry and dropped them an email. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help if we just care to ask nicely. Use platforms such as Linkedin and tools such as twitter to connect with individuals with more ease. Getting a coach or mentor’s perspective during difficult times may be just what your business needs.

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5 Step Guide about Mentors

“Successful people turn everyone who can help them into sometime mentors!” John Crosby

Mentors are essential building blocks for your business or career. They provide you with insight and advice that can only be gained from experience. The funny thing is that they want to share this insight but do not always get the opportunity to do so primarily because…..no one asks it of them. If you are looking to fast track your business or get meaningful insight into how to further your career , start looking for a mentor today. I have compiled a 5 step guide to get you started:

1. Planning for a mentor: Before asking someone to become a mentor you need to have a plan. Your plan must encompass what you are looking for in a mentor, the level of commitment required of the mentor and lastly how both of you will mutually benefit from this relationship. Remember, you need their time, which is usually their most scarce resource. Make sure that before you ask for it you know ‘why’ you are asking this. To learn more on how to plan this, click here.

2. Finding a mentor:
This is the hardest step in the entire guide. All good things in life require you work diligently towards them. This step will test your perseverance level and how badly you really want to succeed. It will require you to step out of your comfort zone, call and email individuals you never thought you could and ask for favors while not offering much in return. Trust me on this one, the effort is well worth it. To learn more about how to find a mentor click here.

3. Mentors and advice: Once you have got yourself a mentor, he/she will be giving you advice. You need to channel this advice to answer the questions you have. This requires you to be clear on the specific advice you require, to listen carefully, get multiple opinions and finally, to put the advice into action. To learn more about ways to get the most from your mentors advice, click here.

4. Mentors and connections: A key advantage of having mentors is their ability to open doors that are completely out of your reach. Whether it is getting you sales pitches you can never setup, linking you to industry veterans to get sage advice or then setting you up with pitches to angels and venture capitalists. Having a mentor help you with these aspects could end up being the difference between success and failure. To learn more please click here.

5. Mentors and strength-finder: Mentors have the ability to identify your strengths and help you develop them. This provides you with a level of affirmation that pushes you harder to reach your goals and objectives. You have to continue to focus on your strengths rather than on just improving your weaknesses. To learn more please click here.

Mentors provide startup companies with a huge competitive advantage. You need to cultivate them as soon as possible to develop momentum for your enterprise and gain as large as a lead as you can on your competition. It take a lot of effort but is most definitely worth it. So if you haven’t got a mentor yet, now will be a good time to start planning and finding one!

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Mentors and Strength-Finder

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Anonymous

In my personal experience with mentors the one aspect which I have benefited from most, more than the opening of doors or advice, has been the identification and affirmation of my personal strengths. Through this process I have learned from others to identify what I have the capability to do better than others and how to channel these strengths to a higher level. This process takes a lifetime to master, having a mentor is a good way to fast track it.

When you have someone who believes in your abilities, it is one of the greatest motivating forces you can find. It provided me with extra energy to get out of bed in the morning, to working & closing deals and providing motivational energy to the rest of the team through rough times.With or without a mentor you need to seek your inherent strengths. Everyone seems to be focusing on your weaknesses and how to improve them. Shift the focus on what it is that you do best, and how you can use those qualities to achieve your goals. By finding someone to help you through the identification process is a bonus.

To have such a relationship with your mentor you have to choose them wisely. You have to work at growing the relationship and making sure that both of you are benefiting from the process. The search for such a mentor is not an easy one and it takes a lot of time and effort. My advice is, put in that time and effort and then work towards taking yourself to the next level.

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Mentors and Connections

“Technology does not run an enterprise, relationships do” Patricia Fripp

Mentors have this amazing ability of opening many doors for the startup they are working with. I have experienced this first hand and was in awe of the competitive advantages we gained in comparison to others startups in our industry. Some of the type of doors which were opened for us by mentors were;

1. Sales: Typical scenario without a mentor is first felt in your first sales cycle. You get all your marketing material ready and are all set to hit your list of prospects. Being a startup company you have to start from the very bottom of most organizations. This drastically increases the time it takes you to reach the decision makers and most of the time you get lost along the way. With mentors all we need to do is get a recommendation and you are sitting and pitching to the decision maker in no time. This has helped catapult many businesses which I have started or been part of.

2. Advisor’s: Usually a mentor is very well connected person with deep contacts within a multitude of industries. If he senses that our business needs help for example in the financial division and he is not able to help in that particular segment you will get referred to other potential advisor’s. By meeting with several key industry veterans you continue to increase your personal network at a mind blistering pace as well as fortifying your companies foundations.

3. Capital: In one of my prior businesses which was a web development company our mentor noticed that we had reached a stage where we could raise substantial capital to take the business to the next level.  With his personal endorsements and contacts we were able to pitch to some angel investors to raise the capital we needed. This turned out to be a huge boost with accelerated our growth by many folds.

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Mentors and Advice

“Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” Publilius Syrus

Mentors at the most basic level, provide you with advice regarding your current business. This advice is the result of many years of experience in the particular segment that you are getting mentored on. Having been through similar situations they are able to provide insight on the best manner to tackle a problem and point out the best possible solution . Over the past couple of years my mentors have provided me with great insights regarding the business ventures I have been part of. The range of advice ranges from legal clauses in partnership agreements to help in correctly valuing my companies and even how to balance my work and personal life.

There are a couple of things that should be kept in mind to maximize your mentors advice :

1. Be clear on the precise subject: In my experience mentors have a tendency to go off tangent when you ask for advice on broad subjects. When you want advice on ramping up sales in your organization make sure you are specific in talking about the details. For example instead of “we need to increase sales for xyz product how do you think we should go about it” say, “The current sales volume of xyz product is 1000 units a quarter with 3 dedicated sales staff, we want to achieve 10% growth every quarter of 08, in your opinion what would be an effective strategy to hit our targets.”

2. Listen carefully: Due to the depth of their experience mentors are continuously bombarding you with information. Your job should be to listen diligently and take down comprehensive notes to help you understand the basic concepts. This will help you create a reference point, ask specific questions if you don’t understand a particular topic and show respect to your mentor. The last thing you want to do is day dream when your mentor is giving advice.

3. Get opinions: I respect my mentors for the advice they have given and continue to give me. However before I implement them I get multiple second opinions from partners, associates and maybe some of my other mentors. This helps you get multiple perspectives before making any major changes to your organization.

4. Use the advice: When a mentor gives you the framework to help increase sales by 10% a quarter and you get positive feedback on the system, get to work on it asap. Mentors want to see progress and if you keep taking their advice and doing nothing about it you are asking for trouble. Being proactive and action oriented are two essential qualities for all entrepreneurs.

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Finding a mentor

“The important thing about a problem is not its solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution” Anonymous

“I don’t know anyone who fits the profile”. Do not worry you are not alone in your quest to find that perfect mentor. At this point many say….”It’s not worth it”, “It will take too much time” or “I will get one later”. You need to get rid of these thoughts as soon as possible. Nothing that is worth getting, is ever going to be easy at any point in life. It all comes down to how badly you want something. If being a successful entrepreneur is what you strive to be, then finding good mentors must be very high on your priority list.

You need to start gathering market intelligence on the movers and shakers in your industry, city and country. Look for individuals who have noteworthy experience in the industry you are currently operating in. Getting to these individuals requires much perseverance, which as I have mentioned countless times, is a characteristic that needs much working on, specially if you are an entrepreneur.

If you are planning on setting up an online book shop, Jeff Bezos is a natural choice. Given we can’t reach Jeff Bezos we have to find ways of finding people who he have worked closely with him. Searching through ‘first line of contacts’ usually closest connections to gauge if they know anyone who has worked with companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, also explore looking into those who have worked in the brick and mortar segment of this industry to get their insight and perspective as well. If you are unlucky with the immediate network use services such as linkedin or facebook to find those who could help you connect to the right individuals.

Using this example from my linkedin network I found someone who recently left Amazon as a SVP and joined Yahoo. She has more than 15 years of experience in this industry and is linked to me through my 2nd degree network. Now I have one name on my list, this process will continue till I have a list of names which can be tapped into. I will then decide the best approach to contact these individuals either through an email, a phone call or at a networking or industry event. Once you have decided on your approach get started and take one name at a time. Feeling nervous or even intimidated is a normal reaction. Be confident, have a clear purpose and you should do great. Give this all that you have got because the benefit of finding a good mentor can be the difference between success or failure of your startup.

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Planning for a Mentor

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Stephen A. Brennan

Before you set out to find your mentor it is best to first develop a plan determining why you are getting a mentor and how you aim to benefit from this relationship. You have to understand that you want a favor from an individual who has little time to give . Keeping that in perspective, build a value proposition for them which clearly outlines what you are looking for, what sort of commitment is required and how both sides can mutually benefit from this relationship. Break it down to these 3 broad working categories .

1. Outline what you are looking for: This section requires you to clearly define the business that you operate in, it does not have to be a perfect model. Defining your business model is what you may want the mentor to help you with. The whole concept of this section is to help the mentor understand what you want to accomplish and your methodology for reaching those goals. Once you have outlined your objectives you can pinpoint certain segments where you require help. It could be with your business mode, sales, human resources, IT or just about any other part of your business you are having trouble with.

2. Outlining commitment: Keeping in mind that time is a scarce resource for mentors you need to clearly define how much time commitment is needed from them. It could be a telephone call once a year or it could be a 2 hour breakfast meeting every Saturday. Like all deals there will be negotiations and you will arrive at a commitment level which should be mutually acceptable to both parties.

3. Mutual Benefit: This section will differ from mentor to mentor. I have come across mentors who have helped me in the past in return for nothing, it was their way of giving back to society. Others have asked for certain monetary compensation while others have even requested for equity. The level of commitment really plays a key role in this section. If you want the mentor to give substantial attention to your business, you will have to come up with a situation in which both sides will be content .

Once you have all these sections planned you will have a clearer idea of what sort of skills your mentor needs to have, what level of commitment does he/she needs to give to the business and how you are going to make it worth his while. Now you are ready to go find yourselves a mentor!

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Mentors

“Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight” Anonymous

Imagine being blindfolded in an alien space. Having someone to guide you at this point so as to avoid bumping into random objects along the way is really helpful. A mentor provides this service in the real world whether you are starting out on a new business venture or figuring out a career path. Instead of relying on advice from sources who have not achieved the sort of goals you have set yourself, the mentor is able to use his/her experience to guide you in a professional manner to help you achieve your targets.

It is not necessary to have a single mentor, you can have multiple mentors to help you grow and progress in different areas. Over the years I have relied on the advice of my multiple mentors to develop businesses, determine my core strengths and weaknesses, understanding of complex financial and legal issues as well as how to bring balance in my life as a whole. Their advice has been critical in my relatively short journey and I sincerely believe they have been vital catalysts in helping my progress .

Finding and benefiting correctly from your mentor will provide you an undeniable advantage over the competition. Over the course of this week I will share steps you can take to identify potentials, build relationships with them and how to benefit from this relationship.

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