On the Importance of Mentorship

“It’s a game changer, Jed. It’s already been a transformative experience.”

“That’s fantastic to hear Zach!” He said, as a resounding smile appeared.

In between rounds of Dominion (wow that’s a really fun game), and chit-chatting with family members, I found myself repeating the same sentences over and over again:

“She’s helped me hone in on what’s most important. She’s been an incredible sounding board. Her experience is like a guiding light. The past few weeks have truly been fantastic!”

No, no, I wasn’t talking about my girlfriend (although she is also a great sounding board, guiding light, etc.), I was preaching the gospel about my mentor. Only two weeks prior had I met her, began our working relationship together, and started learning as much as I could from her.

Why mentorship

When I was 15 years old I read How Breakthroughs Happen by professor Andrew Hardigon. I have absolutely no clue why. In the world of entrepreneurship literature there are too many reading options (books, blogs, etc.). I’ve never seen How Breakthroughs Happen on any online “top ten lists,” but, it made it into my lap.

Its premise is really quite simple; breakthroughs happen when groups of people share ideas, one person internalizes them, and then ultimately that person makes a decision. Hardigon bats down the notion of a lone entrepreneur sitting by themselves in a dark room, concocting the “next best thing.” Instead, his research suggests that innovation stems from idea sharing, internalization, and then decisive action.

I am forever grateful that I read this book.

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Now, in a position of authority at MarketSmart, it’s my responsibility to grow our business and build a great company. Mentorship, and surrounding myself with advisors, is the only way I will be able to accomplish that effectively.

It’s not too far of a stretch to suggest that innovation and business growth are similar, and I have subscribed to Hardigon’s premise; if I surround myself with people that share ideas, and then I internalize them, and then I make a decision, our business will succeed. If I do not, my likelihood of independently (and unilaterally) making the right decisions decreases.

Two reasons to get a mentor

Marnie, the woman I have recently begun working with is not my first mentor. She is mentor number three on my list of trusted advisors. Each brings a different perspective, skillset, and experience to our conversations, which is great and necessary. However, regardless of previous experience, skills, etc., every mentor provides two areas of distinct value:

  1. Sounding board — you have a peer you can discuss high stakes decisions with. As we all know, you need to get opinions from a variety of sources, internalize them, and then make a decision. Mentors and advisors will be your sounding board.
  2. More decisive — after conversing with your coach, mentor, or advisor, you’ll feel more confident in decision making. Why? Because you’ve had honest and open discussion about it with them, and they’ve challenged you. After this has happened you’ll have a stronger sense of commitment.

In both cases, outside mentors play a crucial role because they are not as entrenched in the day-to-day of your business. This may sound counterintuitive, but try and have an in depth conversation with someone in the office and then with your advisor. They’ll both bring a unique (and necessary) perspective to your situation.

Where to find a mentor

Elizabeth, our rockstar Product Manager at MarketSmart, found her mentor from a podcast. Greg, our Founder and CEO found is through the Score Foundation. I recently found Marnie by striking up a conversation with our copywriting agency.

Finding mentors, and being a mentor isn’t too challenging. Talk to your board members or current advisors about expanding your network and building relationships with more people that can help with key issues. Talk to your investors and funders. See if they know anyone in their network that may be able to help you address specific problems or talk through scenarios.

No matter what, commit to surrounding yourself with people that challenge you, force you to think, and propel you forward. Mentorship has been transformative in my career, and it will be in yours as well.


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