Having a mentor proved a game-changer for my startup, guiding me with pragmatism and humour on the path to success
This post was shared by a founder who wishes to remain anonymous.
I have a great mentor. We speak at least once a week, and I attribute a lot of my success so far to him. Why? Well, he's an unusual mix of pragmatism and buffoonery - a class clown that knows his shit. He'll tell me like it is, straight down the middle, while imparting some wisdom that I usually never see coming.
There isn't really a day that goes by without him saying something that makes me laugh, but more importantly, something that makes me reconsider.
Here's one of his classic lines: "When you're about to tackle something, plan for it to take 3 times the effort, 3 times the time, and 3 times the money you'd expect." Every time I'm like, "Oh, that feature is a piece of cake to implement," he chuckles, and asks me to reconsider. I've since learned this is his way of saying he's learned from his planning mistakes - but it's super effective in getting me to really consider how valuable certain features are.
It's less about moving fast and breaking stuff, but moving fast and checking off the big ticket items first.
We were talking about leadership in general at one point, something we chat about quite often actually, when he said, "If you're in a room or on a zoom call and can't figure out who's the leader, that's your cue - it's YOU!" He's all about thinking like a business owner and entrepreneur. Sometimes you need be ready to take charge, be a team leader, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
He goes on, "Every decision you make should be all about value and people." Makes sense, right? The best businesses out there offer crazy value that makes the price look like peanuts. People will pay for what they value, and when your product rocks, you don't need to sweat your marketing game or deal with those complicated funnels.
You don't want to be that person overselling stuff, so treat your customers right, and make your product FOR them!
When discussing the process of assembling a great team, he'd remark, "It requires a diverse range of individuals. We know the best teams are diverse teams." That also means it's okay to take the risk on those who may initially appear to possess slightly less enthusiasm or ability. It's difficult to account for someone's personality in a series of short interviews, and we can only really get to know someone when they join the team. It depends on your business context, and more importantly, your instinct.
The true gauge of a person's effectiveness lies in their results.
There's just one piece of advice I haven't had the resolve to act on, however. "Hire at least one lazy person. They'll spot what needs automating." As entrepreneurs, we juggle a gazillion things and focus on the big picture. Spotting inefficiencies can be like finding Waldo in a crowd. But guess what? The "lazy" ones, as he calls them, can always sniff out the waste. So, let them loose on the job of finding areas to automate.
Some might seem obvious, but let's be real, we all need a reminder now and then to actually put them into action.
Having a good mentor is worth their weight in gold. Seriously.
Being able to sound off ideas, and have someone encourage or dissuade you has been crucial for my personal and professional growth. All joking aside, my mentor offers guidance, wisdom, and insights based on their hefty experience, and has helped me navigate challenges and make informed decisions.
Mentors do provide valuable feedback, encouragement, and a supportive network - if you're feeling overwhelmed, or just need an ear to burn for 30 minutes, a good mentor listens.
My mentor made me a better founder, and you too could experience growth in your role as a founder under the guidance of a mentor.
For more on founder mentorship, try these excellent resources: