Why Mentorship Matters

By Shawn Smith,

Published on Mar 26, 2011   —   3 min read

Ever since I was a child, I've looked up to people who do great things. In my younger years, they were professional athletes, those who, through the force of their own will, make things happen in spite of all that is going on around them. I've always wanted to be that decisive, to know exactly what to do and execute it when the time is right. No fear of consequences. Just pure action.

As I matured, I started to see the same level of decisiveness in business. People who go from one idea to thousands of employees, all on a mission from God to make big changes happen. It's one thing to manage yourself on the field or the court, but it's entirely another to put the right people together to make waves in an industry. I know how to motivate myself. It's getting others to see what I see that's the hard part.

So I don't assume that I know anything. I mean, I know a few things. I've been in the IT business for most of my professional life, and I've been running my own photography business for a while now. But this is different. I'm talking about something that hasn't been done before. Countless people have setup businesses-in-a-box, but how many of them have come up with an original idea and seen it through to the final stages, having no idea whether it will be successful or not?

In my mind, that's what being a real entrepreneur is all about. It's not about taking a business model that's been successful before. It's about taking real risks with your own money. It's about getting out of your comfort zone, learning something new, and building things you want to use. If it's not that, then let's be honest… You're just working for someone else.

But I can't go it alone. Like I said, I don't assume I know anything. I want to learn from others who have taken similar risks before. I want to see what some of the consequences might be, so I can be a little more prepared than they were when they faced the same hurdles. In other words, I value…. no, I need business mentors. Without them, I don't have a leg to stand on.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

-Isaac Newton

My business mentors show me what's possible. They've been outside of my comfort zone, and they've tackled some of the problems I face. For me, it's uncharted territory, but for them it's business as usual. I can see further by standing on their shoulders.

The last time I wrote for this blog, I was in a panic. The other guy was gaining on us. It appeared as though he was beating us to the punch, having already signed up 3,000 users. But appearances aren't always what they seem. It's good to be a nimble and driven one-man-show, but his product is lacking many of the features we plan to implement. I can't see how he'll be able to charge much of anything without adding the extra value we envision.

I'm still in a panic. I guess you could call it a eu-panic (to steal something from the notion of eustress). There's a sense of urgency over here, the feeling that we need to get this done now. My team saw the last post, and it inspired them to act. I'm incredibly grateful to have the ability to do that. We've needed this for quite some time now.

I've also done a few things to rearrange my team, taking the advice of my mentors. I think it's helping us build the momentum we need to launch our product, but I am by no means satisfied. To be honest, I don't think I ever will be.

When you aren't a one-man-show, the team is everything. That's what my mentors have taught me. If one person doesn't have the same drive, and you allow that person to stay onboard, everyone else will follow his lead and start to lose the sense of urgency. It's like a dirty kitchen. A single dirty plate sends the signal that it's okay to put more dirty plates in the sink. People follow your example, and before you know it, you've got crap everywhere.

We're going to be better than this guy. We are better than this guy. We just need to launch our product, and people will understand why.

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