Does Entrepreneur Need a Mentor in their Business

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“Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy job,” says Andres Teran, cofounder of Toplist, a social shopping recommendation startup. “There are moments that you have nothing and feel like things are never going to getting better.”

Teran is referring to the days before his company’s vital pivot point, when he and his team had dedicated their lives to creating a site they loved with features they themselves would want.

“Toplist, before being an app, was a website where people shuffled around cool products curated by their own interests,” says Teran. “We worked hard to develop this cool site with great features that showed amazing products. After we launched the site, though, we noticed people didn’t use all the great features we had built for them. They weren’t engaging with the amazing content we had curated for them. Worst of all, they weren’t coming back to use our service.”

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At that point, his team set out to raise capital for what they had built, hoping to secure enough money for marketing, hires and anything else it might take to help the concept catch on. But, with low user numbers, the Internet odds were stacked against them and time was running out. No one fronted the cash.

“We were just about to let everything go and end the project when we landed a meeting with the CEO of a micro-credit company that had just gone public in Mexico to see if he wanted to be involved as an angel investor in our company,” says Teran.

It was the only lead they had, and soon, he would become the first investor. But not in the company’s current state. First, there were essential pivots to be made, honest realizations to be had and hard-earned advice to be taken. The Toplist team needed an outside perspective and some guidance to find their way.

“On that day, he made us realize two things,” says Teran. “One, the product we had been working so hard on did not work for the users; we thought it would, but it didn’t. Two, not everything was a complete failure: We had learned a lot about how to build products that people could be engaged with, we learned about working together as a team. We had learned from our mistakes actually.”

What was supposed to be a pitch meeting turned out to be a crucial pivot point for Toplist — one that wouldn’t have happened without the right guidance and advice. Teran’s team took the feedback seriously, made the necessary changes and their luck started to change. The company’s new and influential mentor had saved just saved them from near failure.

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“Before we left his office, he said that if we changed our project into something more attractive he would definitely invest,” says Teran. “Sometimes you need someone else to honestly point out what is wrong. We were amazed by his good will.

He could have just said, ‘No,’ and we would have gone on with our failure and him with his success. But he took our side.

He could have just said, ‘No,’ and we would have gone on with our failure and him with his success. But he took our side.”

Mentorship has been a hot topic in the startup world for years, with incubator and accelerator programs offering it — among other things — in exchange for stock in founders’ ideas. Outside of incubators though, finding a good mentor is challenging. But finding the right mentor is a lesson in luck, persistence and not letting opportunities pass you by.

“We did look for mentorship before we found someone that was right,” says Teran, explaining that his company’s mentor was discovered by chance. “I think the way to go is talk with people that can give you advice on certain topics and, most important of all, help you to make good decisions.

A big thing, though, is not to obsess about finding mentorship, because you could lose focus on what’s really important as an entrepreneur — executing the concept,” he says.

So how do you stumble upon your own honest and willing mentor without losing sight of your first priority (your company)?

“Good mentors will be hard to track down, and their time is extremely limited,” says Brett Hagler, cofounder of Hucksley, a marketplace for discovering one-of-a-kind brands. “Reach out creatively and always try to take the ‘backdoor’ approach by getting introduced through a mutual contact. Certain platforms such as LinkedIn allow you to have direct access to your targeted mentors. Always be creative on your specific ask and make it as relevant and direct as possible.”

Look hard for a mentor and network as much as possible, but don’t make finding a mentor your primary focus. Perhaps Sheryl Sandberg said it best in Lean In: you don’t need a mentor to excel, “Excel and you will get a mentor.”

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Your Business Mentors have these Attitudes ?

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When you’re starting a business—or even just thinking about it—the advice you’ll get again and again is to find a mentor. But here’s what’s more important: finding the right mentor.

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The mentor-mentee relationship is a lot like dating. You must share mutual interests, really want to spend time together, and be equally committed. It takes time to identify the perfect fit, and to be honest, sometimes there’s not a match. There are also fundamental qualities in your mentor that will determine whether or not you’ll get the most from the relationship.

While running my own business, I’ve been fortunate to have several excellent mentor relationships. Looking back, here are the three things that I’ve seen really ensure success.


The most important thing to find in a mentor is chemistry. There has to be a fit between the two of you if the relationship is going to work.

What does this mean, exactly? First, there should be at least one major interest that the two of you share. What’s more, though, it’s important that your mentor shares some of the same ideas and views that you do on that topic.

If, for example, your business mentor is a sales expert and a firm believer that the customer is always right, but you believe that focusing on customer support is a waste of time, it’s unlikely the two of you will have a lasting relationship. Even if you don’t know what your beliefs are on a particular topic right away, getting to know your mentor’s views on issues you believe are important will be key to finding the right one.


When I think about the best mentors I’ve had, it always came down to commitment—or how much time they were willing to spend with me. Because successful people are usually good at what they do, their time is in constant demand. But if a mentor is willing to carve out even a small slice of his or her day to chat with you, that can make all the difference. It shows their commitment and helps you gain a lot out of the relationship. It allows you to really learn and ask questions. And it provides a sense of support should something come up down the road.

One of my mentors today travels a lot. Although his family and home are in Silicon Valley, he travels to Europe once a month, sometimes for a few weeks at a time, to meet with his team. Despite his hectic schedule, though, he always makes time to speak with me, even if we have to do a quick Skype call at the crack of dawn. For me, that sends a message that he is willing to put in the time even if he’s on a different continent. And that’s exactly what you want.


Yeah, yeah, it sounds cheesy and weird, but it’s true: Honesty and integrity are important in a business mentor.

Maybe it seems obvious, but what I’m really saying here is that you don’t want a mentor who is going to tell you what you want to hear just to make you feel good. If you are going to get any real learning out of a mentorship, you need to have someone who will be honest with you and let you know when you’re moving in the wrong direction. Constant flattery and sugar coating will not help you learn.

This may also mean you need to build up thicker skin to take the criticism, but if it’s done correctly, the result will not only be constructive, but eye-opening. One of my mentors, for example, is great at calling me out and being brutally honest, even when I disagree. Recently, he told me it was time to stop being a founder and start being a CEO. At first I didn’t see the difference, but it was actually a great wake-up call—and I needed it.

Because of his candidness, I have a tremendous amount of trust in him and usually seek his advice on the most important topics. I know that he will always shoot me straight—and that’s invaluable in a business setting.

Many people think you can just go out and ask someone to be your mentor—but that’s sort of like proposing on the first date without buying dinner first. Really, these relationships often evolve spontaneously over time, when it becomes obvious that someone has all of these qualities and is a fit to help guide you through your business. In fact, it hardly ever comes down to “looking” for a mentor at all. Mentors are usually people you respect and have worked with in the past. They’ve given you advice and somehow manage to be a person you go to often when you’re in a bind. Nothing needs to be said about the relationship—because it’s already there.