Learn from Successful Individuals: Why Mentorship is Important for Entrepreneurs to Succeed.

Mentoring Best Practices
Published on
April 9, 2021

Entrepreneurship is an equal mix of perseverance, vision, and specialist knowledge. To succeed, entrepreneurs must pay attention to an experienced mentor’s advice. However, many new entrepreneurs do not take mentorship for fear of being perceived as weak.  

On the flip side, engaging with a mentor helps entrepreneurs learn, be open to perspectives, and adapt to change. On this note, successful entrepreneurs know that success is not a one-person show.  

Let us look at examples of famous entrepreneurs and their mentors who helped in making a difference.

Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
“If you ask any successful businessperson, they will say they had a great mentor at some point along the road.” – Richard Branson

During the early days of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson turned to British airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways, for advice, practical help, and inspiration.  

Branson recalls that if Virgin Atlantic is known for the high-quality service at competitive prices, Sir Freddie’s wisdom about setting up the company, shaping its vision, and marketing helped. Initially, when Virgin Atlantic had little cash for advertising, Sir Freddie advised Branson to promote the airlines independently. This tactic paid off.  

As for advice to entrepreneurs, Branson says that going it alone is foolhardy and a flawed approach. According to him, the first step for entrepreneurs to approach someone for mentorship is to let go of their ego and admit that taking mentorship will benefit them.

Bill Gates, Founder and Technology Advisor, Microsoft
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the key people who built Microsoft and has been featured in the Forbes rich list since 1987. Gates credits legendary investor and businessman Warren Buffet for his success. Buffet's uncanny ability to simplify complicated ideas helped Gates streamline his thought processes.  

Whenever Gates wanted advice on Microsoft's critical decisions and philanthropy activities, he would always call Buffet. Among several key lessons, Buffet also taught Gates to deal with challenging situations, think long-term, manage, and prioritize certain people and tasks.  

Today, Gates is a mentor to several entrepreneurs and advises critical business leaders.  

Oprah Winfrey, CEO, Harpo Productions and Oprah Winfrey Network
“Mentors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.” – Oprah Winfrey

When Oprah was 17, she wanted to be a journalist. When asked what kind of a journalist she wanted to be, Oprah replied, “I want to be like Barbara Walters.”  

Oprah had grown up watching Barbara Walters. Though she had not taken mentorship from Walters directly, she was initially influenced by Barbara Walter’s life. Like her idol, Oprah had an undeniable prowess as a broadcaster exploring socially essential issues. Both had an incredible charisma and screen presence. However, Oprah only got to interview her idol in 2004.  

Another mentor Oprah turned to for advice was American poet Maya Angelou. Oprah credits Maya’s recommendation to stay grounded as an important one. Another lesson she took from Maya is that relationships depend not on who people think they are but on how they act towards you and others.  

Today, Oprah is a mentor to thousands of girls who swear by her life-changing and quality advice.

Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder and CEO, Facebook
“A small amount of time invested on your part to share your expertise can open up a new world for someone else.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg built Facebook, a social networking platform that has left an impact on society, becoming one of the world’s most influential businesses. He called Steve Jobs one of his mentors. Zuckerberg believed that he shared the same life path as Jobs, which impacts people’s lives.  

He went to Jobs for his experienced-based insight and advice when still early into building Facebook. Jobs advised young Zuckerberg on team building and creating high-quality and valuable products.  

Another person Zuckerberg looked up to was Donald Graham, former CEO of Washington Post Company. He followed him around and sat with him to learn how a CEO ought to behave.  

Donald Graham not only gave tips but also introduced Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to each other. This meeting benefitted Facebook. After the meeting, Sheryl joined Facebook as the Chief Operating Officer, and Donald Graham is one of the independent directors at Facebook today.

Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors
"Some executives credit one or two key people for coaching them to success, but I believe effective mentoring takes a network." – Mary Barra

One of the most powerful women in business, Mary Barra, sought mentorship advice from a network of people. She had mentors from the time when she started her career on the GMs factory floor.  

She believed that entrepreneurs need not always seek access to the top member from the hierarchy or the most connected person. According to her, people can get mentorship from their peers, supervisors, and experts in their workspace. She thinks entrepreneurs can learn from people close to all their lives or a recent acquaintance.  

Early on, one of Mary’s mentors advised her to speak up in meetings, a piece of advice that she took seriously. Another of her mentors showed her the importance of honoring commitments, both in personal and professional life.  

She advises new entrepreneurs to talk to people so that they can learn from them.  

Mentorship has been a key to the success of many successful entrepreneurs. Whether entrepreneurs want to have short-term or long-term relationships, having an experienced mentor can empower entrepreneurs and add value to their business. For more information and advice in finding the right mentor for you, contact MentorCloud.

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