The Value of the Mentor Network
A while back I wrote a blog post about surrounding yourself with smart people. That post was centered around the idea of a strong team of company advisors, people who have been in the trenches and can help remove obstacles. Typically, these types of people are industry veterans or those with relevant experience in the startup endeavor in which you now find yourself.
"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." - John Rohn
Recently, I read an article from Entrepreneur magazine about the 5 Mentors Every Entrepreneur Should Have. I loved this article for a number of reasons. I’ve talked with so many entrepreneurs over the last year that seem hell bent on “going it alone”. They spend so much time heads down, focused on their company, that they fail to get out of the building and talk to anyone. I’m a huge fan of both tenacity and experience, but I think recognition that you don’t know everything is a tenant of a successful company.
The Entrepreneur Magazine took a different perspective on surrounding yourself with smart people. Their premise outlined five personal relationships that you should make sure to have at your disposal. These include:
- A friend that knew you before you started your own thing
- A person with your similar skill set at your point of learning
- A colleague you don’t love working with
- A person with exactly the opposite skills than yours
- A friend who always knew you’d be an entrepreneur
Personally, I’ve been pretty good at surrounding myself with a good network, but I have to admit that I’ve never considered #3 and #4. I think it’s human nature to surround yourself with like minded people, so I really like the idea of “stretching” myself and getting out of the comfort zone.
While thinking about this list I also added a couple of people to it. These represent relationships that have expanded my thinking or helped me think through some of the hard problems that have popped up during the Skyence journey.
A person at your peer level in a completely different industry
I have a friend that runs a sign business, pretty much the farthest thing from cloud based computing as you can get. Yet my interactions with him dramatically change my way of thinking on a number of fronts. When we first started meeting for coffee, it was with the premise of understanding how his industry might benefit from our product, but it quickly evolved into me learning how his industry operated and how I could apply those techniques to our business. I walked into those first meetings thinking about how boring a sign company could be. I’ve since walked out understanding how he grew it to a $4 million dollar business. Different perspectives are good for business.
A typical consumer of your business
As a CEO with a product background, I’ve logged thousands of miles and hundreds of hours of meetings with “end users”, yet I still find them to be super beneficial and not just from a company product perspective. There is something subliminal that soaks into you when you have constant contact with end users. This is especially true when you’re just having small talk, and not focused on product or research. I find that I generally have my best epiphanies after these types of meetings. Hearing people talk casually, about non-product related topics, really gives you a feel for who they are as individuals and their day to day challenges that you’ll never deduce from surveys or metrics.
In my previous post I summarized the article with
“So get out there and meet people. Attend local start up events, reach out via LinkedIn, talk to bloggers. This type of information doesn’t just show up in your inbox, you have to work for it.“
While this all holds true, I’ll append it to include an expanded mentor network as well. There are amazing and talented people all around you. Seek them out and build relationships. And don’t forget to offer yourself up to others as well. Who knows where on the list you’ll fall, or who you’ll impact with your wisdom.