Every entrepreneur needs feedback to improve every business aspect. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Microsoft founder B
Every entrepreneur needs feedback to improve every business aspect.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the richest people in the world, often talks about the importance of having had Warren Buffet as his mentor. He credits Buffet with helping him learn how to manage difficult situations. Gates is a big proponent of mentorship, and once said, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Even though Gates and other notable entrepreneurs tout the benefits of mentorship, in my life I somehow thought I could succeed without anyone’s helps. Ever since I can remember I have always been the type of person that has tried to do everything myself. When I was young I shifted away from team sports such as baseball and soccer into individual sports like tennis and karate. At 22 years old, when I started my first company I tried to make it work without any mentorship and it failed to produce a sustainable level of revenue.
In January 2014, I officially launched my adventure travel company, The Explorer’s Passage, at the New York Times Travel Show, the largest travel trade show in North America. Some of the biggest and best companies in the travel industry were exhibiting alongside me. To my surprise, after thousands of consumers in attendance, on the third and final day, I was awarded the Best Small Booth in the show, besting over 400 booths. “This was it,” I thought to myself. “My sales will skyrocket. All my hard work will pay off!”
That Monday, instead of the phone ringing off of the hook and email requests flooding my in-box there was nothing but silence. “How is this possible?” I thought. I had the busiest booth at the show. “I have an extraordinary product.” I did not give up though and continued on by trying every marketing tactic and strategy that I could come up with. I kept telling myself that I “could figure it out”.
Unfortunately, despite working late nights and weekends the silence continued for another 18 months. I was almost ready to call it quits when it finally hit me; I had a conversation with a friend where I realized that maybe there was a bigger reason things weren’t working out as planned – maybe…. “I” was the problem. I needed to change!
I have never liked asking for help or advice. For most of my life I was able to get by through sheer hard work and determination. However, I realized that this type of thinking wouldn’t work in my life as an entrepreneur. I knew I needed help to make my company successful. So I created my own personal board of advisors – a team of people with whom I could bounce ideas off of, people that would help me grow, and people who were not afraid to provide honest and direct feedback. It wasn’t too long after I began working with “my team” that things started to change, and sales began to come in.
It is ironic that the type of person who becomes an entrepreneur is typically someone who likes to do everything by themself. However, this same attribute can be a major hindrance to achieving success. It’s unfortunate that many people view asking for help as a sign of weakness. It’s really the opposite. Asking for help is a courageous step and a true strength of an effective leader. Many top entrepreneurs cite that they work with coaches or mentors to help them, not only just early on in their careers but even when established.
The CEO of General Motors Mary Barra is a strong believer in surrounding yourself with a network of mentors. Barra said, “Some executives credit one or two key people for coaching them to success, but I believe effective mentoring takes a network.”
She also said that “When building your network of mentors, be honest about your mid- and long-term career goals, and how hard you are willing to work to achieve them. Then turn to those who best know you and your work.”
Here’s what I’ve learned about leveraging the expertise of others:
Find a mentor who was successful in your industry.
Each industry has different challenges and nuances. Working with someone who has spent considerable time in your space can help save you from making years of mistakes. A seasoned industry veteran may have countless contacts, know how the industry operates, and he/she can help guide you through turbulent waters. I have worked and continue to work closely with a number of adventure travel industry veterans whose invaluable mentorship and advice has been critical to my business’s success.
Work with a business coach who has entrepreneurial experience.
While a business coach may add value, in my experience it is critical for a new entrepreneur to work with someone who has gone through the journey themselves. An entrepreneur knows how to build a business from the bottom up, they think differently from professional managers, and they know how to find a way to solve complex problems. In the past five years I’ve worked with some extraordinary coaches who are all entrepreneurs. From the outset of our working together, I was able to see tremendous value and like any great partnership the benefits increased dramatically over time.
Work with someone who strengthens your weaknesses.
When something isn’t working in life or in business, many people want to push blame elsewhere. I used to do that early on in my business. It’s the economy; “the customers just don’t understand my product” and “it is bad luck”, I would tell myself. However, often times “we” are the problem. Unless “we” change, our venture won’t work.
It is critical to work with someone who can uncover what is inside of you that is truly holding you back. So much of business is about your psychology. In fact, Tony Robbins believes that psychology plays a key role in the success of your business. He believes that success in a business is “80 percent psychology and 20 percent skills.” The more I understood this, the more I threw myself into personal development which helped me move past my psychological blocks. If you want your business to change then first you need to change. If someone else is having success in a business that is similar to yours, then why can’t you make it work? The answer is that they’re doing something that you are not! Find out what that something is and change yourself so you can succeed.
Nowadays, the more I want my business to grow, the more I work on myself with “my team”. I have personally seen a direct correlation with this approach and the success of my business. Having other opinions will help reveal things that you might miss. This is the key to breaking through to new heights. Be open to ideas, be open to suggestions, and most importantly be open to critiques.
My advice is to put an amazing team of advisors together and soon you and your business will become unstoppable!