Having a mentor is something that I believe is frequently overlooked and undervalued by business owners. It is something I personally have not been fortunate to have and often have thought to myself that I wish I did. Without someone serving as a formal mentor/mentee relationship it is important you at least have someone you can talk to whose opinion you trust and who is willing to listen to you and share their advice with you. The fact is, there is no book out there that will tell you the answers to the decisions that you as a business owner will need to make on a daily basis. As much as I sometimes wish they would, people won’t accept “sorry I have never had to deal with this before” as an excuse for not making those critical decisions. People that work for you or deal with your company look to you as the owner to make well thought out, decisive decisions and they put a great deal of trust in you that you are making the right one.
This trust is a great burden that every business owner will deal with at some point. Having a mentor is a nice sanity check to have before making those big decisions. They can also serve as an ear to talk to when you need to just vent. A lot of times these people have dealt with similar situations and can speak from experience and tell you how they dealt with them and how it turned out. There will still be cases that not even they have dealt with and at that time they just listen and give you their opinion on the matter.
For me, as I mentioned I have never been fortunate to have someone I consider a business mentor. People are frequently surprised to find out that I did not inherit my business from my family and in fact that I have no business background whatsoever. My dad was a phys ed teacher and taught me everything I know about sports and is the sole reason I played soccer in college and semi professionally after college….but my dad is a fish out of water when it comes to business dealings. My mom was a stay at home mom that raised the four kids (which actually makes her surprisingly qualified for many of the issues I deal with on a day to day basis) but she also never ran a business. As a result, every situation that I have encountered in my 11 years of running integrateIT is pretty much unchartered waters for me. I have had many a sleepless night laying in my bed thinking about decisions I have had to make or issues I have been stressing about.
Since I have not had what I consider to be a mentor, I have had a few people serve in that role for me throughout my years at integrateIT. My mom, my brother Tim, my business partner Dave, and my wife KT have all served in that role in some capacity. Each of them have heard me complain, ask for advice, or just vent to them about something I was dealing with. I value each one of their opinions and I usually go to each one with different types of topics. My mom always serves as my sounding board as she is an incredible listener. I always feel better about my tough deicisons after talking to my mom about them. I’m not even sure it’s that she gives me some great advice or anything but rather that she just lets me get some stuff off my chest when I need to. Also, she always prays for me in church which the way I see it can never hurt. My brother is one of the smartest people I know and I value his opinion more than almost anyone else. He has never run a business but he knows a great deal about many different topics. Often times we just talk (typically over beers) and our wives thank god that we have each other so they don’t have to hear it anymore! My business partner Dave can’t really serve as a mentor for me since we are in business together but we certainly do our fair share of chatting on a daily basis about decisions we are faced with. Dave is wise beyond his years and has an incredible business mind so I definitely trust his opinion a great deal. My wife KT is the closest thing I have to a mentor. She has never run a business but she has been in the business world for some time now and she also intimately knows the goings on within integrateIT. It’s nice to me that we can frequently bounce ideas off of each other and I know we both value each others opinions.
Running a business is challenging and you will be faced with difficult times and challenging decisions that won’t necessarily be popular. It’s important you have someone (or several people) that you can turn to when you are stressed out, or just need to bounce something off of.