Healthcare entrepreneurs are engineers of their own success, often thriving on innovation and new ideas. However, it’s not just new ideas that keep these entrepreneurs moving forward. There are some concrete business ideas and benefits of experience that can be essential in launching new businesses, whether those businesses are built on ground-breaking, disruptive ideas or even when they’re not.
So, what does that mean for the budding entrepreneur? First, it means surrendering the idea that you know everything that’s best for your business. You have to be able to learn how to take input from others and accept good wisdom when it’s presented to you. Humility is the root of success, do not be too prideful to admit what you do not know. In fact, I have found this concept is typically the downfall of many healthcare entrepreneurs.
You should consider seeking out a mentor to help guide the growth of your business as well as your individual professional development. Here, we’ll discuss what mentors can mean to healthcare entrepreneurs, as well as some steps for finding the right person to guide your journey as an up-and-coming force in the business world.
What does a mentor do?
Just like “entrepreneur,” “mentor” is not a title that has a specific set of tasks. The job of a mentor may vary, depending on the situation at hand. In general, a mentor will serve as a sounding board for new ideas, a guide for career and industry knowledge, and a motivator. They may take part in some or all of the following tasks (likely along with many others):
- Coaching for public speaking or pitches to potential investors
- Facilitating meetings with influential figures within your industry
- Providing honest feedback for your ideas and new concepts
- Offering direction for the next phases of your career
- Sharing advice at critical points of business development
- Helping you set professional goals
As you can see, mentors can be a huge source of success, offering the wisdom of their own education and experience to help you get to the next phases of your career.
Keep that general description in mind when you are wondering what to ask a mentor. To be clear, they should not be someone who also tackles your personal problems or has direct involvement with your business. Though you may share many details of your personal life with your mentor, it’s important to recognize that you are still dealing with a professional relationship, rather than a personal one. Additionally, your mentor might have a lot of input and ideas that contribute to your business, but he or she should not be an investor or partner in your business, because this creates a clear conflict of interest that might lead to advice that’s more motivated by personal gains.
Why are mentors so important to healthcare entrepreneurs?
Mentors can be influential for professionals of all types, but for healthcare entrepreneurs, these relationships are particularly important. Why? Because healthcare entrepreneurship is so unique as a career. Those who succeed as healthcare entrepreneurs typically thrive because they enjoy the freedom of self-management and the ability to bring new ideas to life on a regular basis, rather than dreaming from a cubicle in an office.
However, a good entrepreneur will still recognize that external input is necessary for success. Mentors can help you see potential problems you may have overlooked before a product launch or brainstorm ideas for alternative funding for a project. Your mentor will, ideally, have more experience than you in the business world, so he or she can help you identify solutions that you may not have known existed.
Furthermore, your mentor might assist you in forging connections with other professionals who can grow your career and provide much-needed motivation in times when you might be struggling to find new ideas or get a business off the ground.
How to find a mentor.
Looking for a mentor should be a careful process, and you might have to take the time to meet with several candidates before finding a good fit. Of course, the experience you gain from finding a mentor and meeting various professionals in your field can be a valuable component of your journey as an entrepreneur, so don’t just go at it with only your end goal in mind.
So, of course, you can’t just walk up to anyone and say, “Will you be my mentor?” You must be more methodical and tactful when you search and ask for mentorship. This starts with knowing where to look. Since a Craigslist search for “exceptional mentor for a budding entrepreneur” won’t yield many results, you might turn to the following sources to seek out the right mentor for you:
- Networking events – Professional networking events happen around the country all throughout the year, and if you aren’t attending events that are related to your industry, you are missing out on opportunities to become known as a force in that industry and to find potential mentors.
- Business hot spots – Startup incubators and coworking spaces are not just gaining popularity, they are becoming the norm for new work environments around the country—and not just in big cities. Spending time around these locations can be beneficial because they provide tons of opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration, and they can attract more than just newcomers.
- General networking sites – Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter can cross boundaries between simple social networking and business networking. LinkedIn is already more geared toward business endeavors, so it isn’t unusual to connect to individuals who might be a positive influence for you by sending messages and adding those people to your network. Twitter can let you reach out to influencers publicly and build up a presence for your business’ brand as well as your personal brand, so you can pave the way for in-person meetings with some name recognition and notoriety to work in your favor.
- Small business development centers – There are some dedicated centers funded through Small Business Administration funds as well as local and private funding which offer resources to small businesses in different areas. If there is a SBDC near you, it’s worth checking out as a source of information as well as a potential avenue for mentor networking.
- Mentor networking sites – Perhaps your most direct source for a mentor will be mentor networking sites like MicroMentor. You might think of it like a dating site, but for mentors. Your search will have a clearer intention to find a mentor online, so you might connect with someone faster and begin building that relationship sooner than you would through other avenues.
What should you look for in a mentor?
Obviously, you want to look for someone with the right professional qualifications, such as experience in your industry and a track record of success. But even a mentor with the perfect resume may not be a good fit if your personalities do not blend well.
For example, if you do not feel like you can come to your mentor with negative news or you hesitate to share certain business details with your mentor, there may be an issue of trust that will be toxic to the mentoring relationship. You should feel like you can fully trust your mentor and share both good and bad news about your business, rather than just the high points.
As you look for a mentor, there are certain qualities you will want to look for. These specific qualities are signs of someone who will be an effective mentor:
- Honest communication: You need to have a mentor who is willing to have the hard talks with you. Constructive criticism will help you grow, so keep that in mind and do not get super defensive. Your mentor is there to grow you, not hinder your healthcare entrepreneur journey.
- Objectiveness: A mentor is not someone who is there to tell you all the things that make you feel good. They need to be able to put aside personal feelings and help your progress.
- Discretion: You need to be able to talk to your mentor openly with full discretion so that you feel you are able to talk to your mentor about any issue you are facing. You do not want to be holding back things that are hindering your success.
- Approachable: It is important that you feel comfortable talking to your mentor.
- Inquisitiveness: You want someone who is interested in what you are doing as well. A mentor mentee relationship does not just help one party grow, it usually helps both the mentor and mentee.
- Empathy: While you need someone who is open and objective, it is also important that your mentor has empathy. Without it, it can cause friction in the relationship.
- Generous: Quality mentors are happy to share their insights and willing to help other people succeed. You do not want someone who wants to hold back on their willingness to help others.
How do you reach out to a potential mentor?
In your search for a mentor, you might develop many new professional relationships, but how do you make it official when the right fit for a mentor does come along? After meeting casually to decide whether it’s a good fit, you do want to clearly ask the individual to become your mentor and be clear in your expectations for that.
First, you might send an email scheduling a meeting. There, you can talk about your goals and some business ideas, and the conversation may evolve toward the official ask. At this point, you should confirm that you are looking for guidance and are willing to listen and set goals, participating fully in the mentor-mentee dynamic. You’ll want to let your mentor know that it won’t be a chore to take you on as a mentee, but that it will be a fulfilling relationship of growth and development as professionals.
If your ideal mentor is not up to the task, don’t use too much pressure to try to convince him or her. You want a mentor who is excited to start training and coaching you, so take your time in finding someone who is mutually interested in becoming your mentor.
If you need help reaching out to your mentor via e-mail, make sure to check out these five tips for emailing a potential new mentor.
How do you connect with your mentor?
Once you land a mentor, you will want to maintain regular contact, which may mean sending emails, meeting in person, or connecting over social media—it’s up to you to decide the details.
Know that your mentor is likely running on a busy schedule, as most entrepreneurs are, so always come to meetings prepared with key topics of discussion, new ideas for development, and essential questions you need to ask.
It is important that you take time to grow your mentor mentee relationship. This connection should not only benefit you but should benefit your mentor as well. Make sure you put in time to foster the relationship so you can find success on your healthcare entrepreneurship path.