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Are You My Upstate New York Mentor?

Navigating the waters of entrepreneurship is a challenge, don’t go it alone. Find a mentor to help you, here’s 3 things to know.

What having a mentor has taught me and 3 things to think about!

As much I would love to think I have all the answers, I’ve quickly find out that being an entrepreneur is all about listening to others and molding it into your business. I really believe that trying to be in business without a mentor and the right people in your corner is dangerous.

I was in college when I started thinking I wanted to enter the Real Estate world. My finance/accounting courses showed me how to model out all kinds of scenarios about buying houses. So after some time in some excel spreadsheets, I had the confidence to mention it to my family. My dad said I better talk to our family insurance expert. So I setup a meeting and went to his office.

I still can remember his explanation of “Sweat Equity” to me at our first meeting. I was 19 years old and thought anything was possible. He helped me talk through the real world applications of my fancy spreadsheets. I realized quickly that I had underestimated the work required and shelfed the idea.

It was the first interaction of what now has become a 10+ year mentor/mentee relationship. We kept in touch over the years and as I had ideas that I did some homework on, I would call to get his thoughts. “What am I missing here?” “How does this work”.  Without my mentor in my corner I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve had many ideas that haven’t made it all the way to a viable business and in many ways that go or no-go decision is a result of my discussion with my mentors. Knowing who is in your corner is priceless.

Here are a few tips why you need a mentor(s):

1. You don’t know it all. Wouldn’t you like to have someone with experience be there to talk things out? Chances are they walked the same road you did in some capacity. Spending the time talking issues out, listening, and learning from someone else’s success and/or mistakes can be incredibly valuable. I couldn’t say it better myself “I think what you have to find is one or two or three people that are going to give it to you straight and push you harder. You have to be comfortable with people telling you that you’re not doing well.”

2. Don’t wait till it’s too late. A true mentor will be there with you to celebrate the success and ride through the pain. They won’t do your work for you, they may give you homework, but they also may have resources you never considered. Find someone that wants to see you do well, but don’t have your first meeting start “I have a problem.” It should be an ongoing relationship regardless of problems.

3. Do well then give back. At Canisius College I received a scholarship from a prominent Rochester Business man. Over my 4 years we met annually to allow him to see the fruits of his donations. As long as I live I’ll never forget this 75 year old man saying “I’ve helped you get this far. Go out into the working world, strive for success, and when you can give back.” You can be a mentor too! Mentoring is a rewarding experience to help pay it forward to the next wave of entrepreneurs.

There isn’t just one good route. It’s best to utilize all the resources out there. In the process of writing this I also came across a great Business Insider article, it shares my main point: “Get mentors.” UVC can connect you to some great mentors and tools. Also Buffalo Niagara Score offers free mentoring as a division of the Small Business Association. SCORE has chapters covering all of UPSTATE NY. Find your local chapter at www.score.org

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