#Asia 4 reasons your startup needs a mentor

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Finding someone to whom you can talk about your business and your work struggles is crucially important to your business’s long-term health

If you’re starting a new business, you may think you have everything you need. After all, you know how to look things up online, you’re connected with your local Chamber and SBA, and you’ve possibly even been to business school. You have business partners, local experts, and people you talk to online. So why do you need a mentor for your business?

1. Advice on the fly

Having a mentor means that you have someone to call when you need advice on the fly. This can be a rigid structure – perhaps you meet this person every week for coffee – or more as-needed, where you call or email when you need to talk through a problem.

Your mentor, ideally, will work within your industry, so that they are familiar with the particular challenges and problems that you might face as you get your business off the ground. They may also be able to connect you with interesting people within the industry, such as investors, experts, and potential employees.

Also Read: 5 things that startups should look for in a mentor

But when you’re not sure who to go to and ask a question, that’s when you should reach out to your mentor. Knowing who that person is going to be ahead of time saves a lot of worry about who you need to talk to.

2. Place to vent

No business proceeds entirely smoothly. All companies have ups and downs, especially in the early days. Without a place to vent your frustrations, the stress can absolutely get to you. It can be difficult to try to share your problems with your friends or family; Over time, venting about your business can start to change your relationship, especially if they work with you.

Having someone to share your concerns and stressors with is crucial, if you want to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Being able to share your frustrations with someone experienced within the business world has the additional benefit of being able to get advice on how to improve the situations causing your stress. Venting to your family or friends who work for other employers may not give you the relief you need in order to move on or fix the problem.

3. Local knowledge

Many business students go to school somewhere reasonably far away from where they end up opening their business. Much knowledge about any business community is very locally based. Having a mentor can help entrepreneurs ensure that their business knowledge is adapted to the specific community in which they operate.

For example, you might have learned in business school that supporting causes, donating to local events, or giving profits to charity are all good ways to generate positive attention for your company. A local mentor, however, can help you decide which charities are the most receptive to local donations, which sponsorships tend to garner the biggest rewards, and which events you should make sure not to miss. While an MBA from a prestigious business school can give you a lot of things, this is one area where on the ground experience is simply necessary.

Local mentors may also be the most familiar with resources within the community. Does the Chamber of Commerce offer a local mixer, or is there an email list or Facebook group that local business owners use to connect within the area?

4. Specific experience

A mentor is, ideally, someone in your industry. But they are also, if possible, someone who has experienced similar marginalization as you in their life. For example, studies have shown that women entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed when they have successful women entrepreneurs as mentors to talk to about the difficulties they face. This is especially true for women entrepreneurs who are also LGBT, Black or non-black people of color, or disabled (or all of the above!).

Marginalized entrepreneurs face special challenges in the world of business, from more difficulty securing loans to potential racism and discrimination at primarily-white institutions within the community. Whether these issues are personal or institutional, having the backing of someone who has successfully navigated these waters before can be the difference between business success and business failure for many companies.

As a startup entrepreneur, finding a mentor can be complicated. You may have an idea of the perfect person for you to work with, but find that they’re too busy, or that your personalities don’t mesh. You might want to establish a more formal relationship with someone, while they want to keep things very casual. But ultimately, finding someone to whom you can talk about your business and your work struggles is crucially important to your business’s long-term health.

What would you recommend to someone who is looking for their first startup mentor?

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The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.

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