Expert advisers are a business builder's best friends and resources. We might also call them coaches, teachers or mentors. They are people with specific expertise, knowledge and/or business relationships. They have learned the key principles and best practices of their trade. They think abundantly and are willing to share what they know with those who ask for assistance. They themselves have been taught by other luminaries and are delighted to "pay it forward."
Smart and successful entrepreneurs continue to enlist advisers on a regular basis for instruction and wise counsel. They recognize that pretty much no one has all the right answers on their own about how to start and run a great business.
A mentor might be an attorney, a CPA, a supervisor from the past, a kind competitor, an angel investor, a banker or a successful entrepreneur. Most are happy to give assistance pro bono. They are generous with their advice, but cautious with their time. Savvy entrepreneurs respect this special gift and carefully manage the relationship.
As a particular and unfamiliar business matter surfaces, I recommend a business owner ask friends and associates for the names of individuals with the needed expertise. Contact potential advisers and ask for guidance.
Clearly describe the situation and ask how to proceed. Learn the pros and cons of various solutions. A mentor may also recommend others who might be helpful, a class to attend or publications you might study for answers.
There will always be questions for which I don't have an answer. Today, even after being in business for more than 40 years, I continue to call upon trusted advisers for guidance.
Throughout my life, there have been many gracious mentors who have illuminated my path and shown me the way. As I followed their advice, I have grown professionally and enjoyed success. I am indebted to them forever.
Ray Noorda, of Novell fame, was one such mentor. I learned from him that cash in a business is critical to success.
"Cash is king," he would say. "Make sure you have plenty and don't waste it."
Dr. David Norton, entrepreneur and co-founder of Iomega, has been a mentor of mine for nearly 30 years. He is, perhaps, one of the most gifted businessmen I know. In addition to his business acumen, he is also honest, trustworthy, dependable and thoughtful. Trained as an engineer, he is analytical and process-focused. He has the unique ability to not only a start a business, but to grow it successfully.
Years ago, when I launched MarketStar, I would reach out to Dr. Norton for advice on various business topics. We both knew I had never built a fast-growing company and that there were many things for me to learn. One day I mentioned to him that I was planning to diversify the business and enter new and untested markets.
"Why would you do that?" he asked. "Have you maximized the potential opportunity of your existing market? Is there no more room to expand?"
We employed about 100 workers and were profitable, but I was worried we might not continue to grow.
"Alan," he would proclaim, "I am sure MarketStar can be much larger. Stay the course and avoid diversifying. You will be successful if you do."
He was, of course, correct. We followed his counsel and stayed the course. Today there are thousands of MarketStar employees worldwide.
Dr. Norton and several others continue to guide me as I pursue new ventures. Their advice and support are invaluable. I will never be able to properly compensate them for their inspired wisdom. In return for their generosity, I will continue to be a mentor to others.
I recommend without hesitation that all business builders find knowledgeable mentors to guide them. Success will follow.
How has a mentor or adviser helped guide you to success? I welcome your stories or questions about securing a mentor. You can reach me at www.AlanEHall.com or connect with me at @AskAlanEHall.