They sit across from you: nervous, anxious, excited, apprehensive. They’ve had this idea and dream all their lives and now they have taken the first step to make it a reality. But, they are just not sure what their next step should be and how to make it all work. They are an entrepreneur. Maybe for the first time or maybe for the third or fourth time. They have a vision unlike anyone else and a drive to make that vision a reality. They will do anything and everything to make it work. They will make mistakes, learn from them, and continue to move forward. They will have successes great and small. They are tenacious, passionate, and driven.
As you sit with them, they talk. They talk about their dreams, struggles, and hopes for the future. What will get them the next breakthrough? They know their idea works. They’ve tested it, but now are struggling with reaching the right customer base. They may have customers and have grown their revenue base, but now their growth has outgrown their bank account. How are they going to convince an investor to join their seed round? They’ve got their pitch down, but do they really? Where can they improve? Do their numbers make sense? They may even be thinking “Should I give up? How can I keep going? “
They have a million questions and you sit intently listening. For that is what they really need, someone to listen, just listen. As you listen you reflect on your experiences as a business owner and entrepreneur. The mistakes you’ve learned from and the success you’ve had. They pause and look at you for answers. You sit back and reflect on what they have said and realize what they really need is encouragement. You decide to give them a few pointers on their pitch deck, or briefly explained how you tackled a similar challenge. At this you see them relax. They’ve got their answers now, but is that all they need? No. After a pause, you begin to speak again. You tell them their story, reflect on their struggles, doubts, challenges and, most importantly, their dreams and vision. As you speak you look into their eyes. Suddenly there’s a change. Their eyes light up. There’s a spark. They sit up and smile broadly. You listened, really listened. They are no longer weary, anxious, or apprehensive. They are excited, renewed, and moved to action.
They thank you for your time and advice, get up and leave to face their challenges with new vigor. You sit back and a small smile comes across your face. Unknown to you, your eyes light up and you are renewed, for this budding entrepreneur has given you a bit of hope and energy you didn’t realize was missing. You leave with a smile on your face. You came expecting to only give back, to provide advice and answers, but you leave with renewed hope and energy. You are a Mentor!
by Susan Nieland