How mentors make superstars

Story highlights

  • Mentors have become an essential resource for ambitious entrepreneurs
  • Professional mentors have A-list contacts to support you
  • They can help define your company identity and mission
  • A change in mindset can be the key to business success
Navigating the jungle of start-ups and investors can seem seem daunting for freshly-minted entrepreneurs, but a reliable guide can make beating a path to success more achievable.
Even the business world's heavy hitters, like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, are increasingly relying on mentors to provide support and expertise. Some will even pay handsomely to establish this critical relationship.
Not sure you want to drop the funds to pay for a professional mentor? We asked five of the business world's latter-day Obi-Wan Kenobis to tell us why their service is so valuable.
Heavyweight connections
Author and strategist Ron G Holland has a consistent record of delivering success for his business mentees, and sees the establishment of a high-grade support team as key.
"For one client we added an ex-chairman of Boots and an ex-Financial Director of Teather and Greenwood stockbrokers...also heavyweight professional advisers from a major city law firm and accountancy firm. We raised £1.5 million ($2.4 million) from the first stockbroker I introduced him to, after he had spent two years not raising a penny."
Establishing a business identity
The 'Apostle of appreciation' Chester Elton, motivational speaker and author of several bestselling leadership books, says a mentor helped define the values of his company.
"What would be our guiding philosophy? He taught us the 'Rule of Three' to keep it simple and focused. Our guiding rule of three is: (be) world class. In our writing, in our training and consulting we do everything we can to make it world class. Only the best is acceptable. Two: No surprises. Share everything and make sure we communicate on everything! Three: Cheer for each other. Let's encourage and support each other."
Keeping you grounded
Lara Morgan entered business at age 18 and sold her first business for £20 million ($32.5 million). She is among the world's most sought after leadership consultants, and says in many cases, it's best to be blunt.
"A great mentor is unafraid to tell you when a great idea you think you have had... is not all that great after all, whilst firing you up to stay focused on the main prize."
Managing transitions
David Clutterbuck is the self-styled "master of the MDQ (Massively Difficult Question)," an author of over 50 books and an international consultant to numerous businesses.
"As small businesses grow they encounter significant transitions. What seemed a good decision when the company is just a few people can become a major problem as the business grows. Making key technical people managers may seem a good idea at the time. But when the business needs a proper management structure, these people may lack the competence to lead. Then, they either hold the company back, or the entrepreneur has to fire them, which can be a very painful experience. Roughly speaking, these transitions occur with every trebling of employee numbers."
Retraining your brain
TV and radio star Ali Brown has become one of the top entrepreneurial gurus for women, and participated at the United Nations Foundation's first ever Global Accelerator conference. She believes inner change drives success.
"The biggest area for me is mindset. Entrepreneurs are handling a lot, it's completely different to their previous lives, with a lot of pressure and responsibility. People don't typically come to me about this -- usually the first thing is how to grow the company -- but thinking differently is key. Women often feel they need people to like them. I say they don't, they need to be respected. It's a small shift in awareness that can help people make good decisions that help their business grow."