By: Misty Lown, More Than Just Great Dancing
As a dance student, I had no question about the value of having a mentor. I didn’t call these influencers in my life mentors, I called them teachers, but they were mentors in the truest sense of the word. They shared their experiences and wisdom with me, and challenged me to grow in my art. They held my feet to fire when I wanted to give up, encouraged me to define my goals and helped me create strategies to reach them.
And, then a funny thing happened. I graduated.
I can’t say that it’s anybody’s fault, but somewhere in the space between college and career, I found myself on my own, lacking the support system I had grown to rely upon. My teachers moved on to new students and I moved into what I thought being a responsible adult meant. And, to me that meant that I should be able to handle things on my own.
And, a not-so-funny thing started to happen. I started to get burned out.
Starting my dance studio at age 21 was exciting, but the weight of the responsibility added up quickly. Add a marriage and young family and my studio started to look like a burden instead of a blessing. And that’s when it dawned on me: I wasn’t made to carry this all on my own. I didn’t want to be a “solopreneur”, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started actively seeking mentors again. Studio life has never been the same.
Have you been there? Are you there now?
I have been there and I want you to know that you are not alone. Not only that, you are not designed to do this alone. Just like you needed a mentor as a dance student, you need a mentor as a business owner.
If you are ready to break the isolation of business ownership, check out these ideas for finding and learning from a mentor.
1. Identify the wisdom, encouragement or tools that you are most in need of right now. If you are having a hard time with studio-specific challenges, reach out to another respected owner in your region for advice. If you are struggling with home/work balance, reach out to someone who has an admirable balance of both. Perhaps growing your business is your biggest struggle. If so, then grabbing lunch with seasoned business owner of any larger business may help you.
2. Don’t be afraid to initiate contact. This is where a lot of studio owners lose courage because they just don’t know what to say or they fear being turned down. If this is you, take the pressure off of yourself. You’re not making a marriage proposal—you are just looking to start a conversation with someone who is a little further down the business path than you are right now. My suggestion is to reach out by email to the person you are interested in learning from and ask them if they would be willing to join you for a 55 minute Learning Lunch (55 minutes is efficient and intriguing!).
3. Come with your questions. Before you ask questions that are specific to your situation, get to know the person. They will likely answer many of your questions just by sharing their journey as a business leader. Once you’ve established a rapport, ask for insights on your specific situation.
4. Open the door for more. If anticipate thinking of additional questions to ask after your Learning Lunch, ask your guest if they would be open to an email follow up. Again, you are not asking for a permanent mentoring relationship. You are just keeping the door open for another conversation.
5. Follow Up. Did you learn something? Did it cause you to make changes? Let that person know. Gratitude is the fuel of relationships.
Finding a mentor is a little like dating. You wouldn’t take every person on a second date, but you can learn something from every person. But, when you do find that person you just click with, your life will certainly be enriched by the relationship.
You have nothing to lose, so make a list of five people you’d like to learn from today! And, in case I’m on that list, here is my email: [email protected] :)