Monday, January 9, 2012

Finding a Mentor

When I first decided to take the Reading Glue idea seriously, I knew that it would be beneficial to have a mentor.  I had read everywhere that having a great mentor was key.  I faced the question that I am sure many people do, and that was "how and where the hell to I find a mentor?"  I know people that have started businesses, but none of these people have experience in the tech or education sectors.  I know people who are very successful executives, but most are connections through my day job.  I do not want to mix my day job and startup activities.  So how in the world was I going to find a mentor?  To be honest, I just ignored this question and and told myself it will happen when it happens.  I even tried to convince myself that it might not even be all that important for now.

About three weeks ago I was reading my RSS feeds and a IM came through.  A friend of mine was sending over a link to a story that I had actually seen earlier in the morning.  It was from the local newspaper and talking about how some local small businesses were utilizing the Fox Valley division of SCORE.  I had breezed past the article earlier without really reading it.  I thought to myself "I know everything about the available local resources for small businesses."  After getting the IM, I decided to go back and read the article.  The article discussed how SCORE offered local businesses and entrepreneurs mentoring services for free.  After going to the SCORE website, I found out that they offered meetings in DeKalb as well as Elgin and other places.  I decided to set up an appointment.  If it did not work out, then nothing was lost except maybe an hour of my time.

This past week it was finally time for my meeting.  I met with two gentlemen who were excited to hear about what brought me in, what I was trying to build, and what help I was seeking.  It turns out that each of them came from backgrounds similar to what I am dealing with in education and software startups.  As I was 30 minutes into what was supposed to be a 5 minute explanation, it quickly dawned on me what these guys would be able to help me out the best with.  I needed someone to help settle down the 100+ directions my brain was going everyday, and give direction activities I am working on right now are most important to focus on.  The past few weeks I have been trying to develop prototype wire frames.  I have been trying to establish the legal sides of the business.  I have also been thinking about marketing, launch, scaling, etc (yeah I don't know why I am thinking ahead so much, but for some reason I was).  My mind has been running all over the place and getting way ahead of me.  For the most part it has been a distraction.  These guys reminded me that right now the most important thing is to get my thoughts down on paper into a business plan.  Get it written down so it can be visualized by myself and others.  It doesn't have to start off being a very detailed business plan, but I needed to get a start somewhere.  My new mentors gave me a worksheet to fill out and it lays the foundation for the info that will go into the business plan.  I started working on that this weekend.  I will be working on it as I head to Vegas to attend CES for the day job.  My goal is to sit down next week and start writing the formal plan.  I will then review it with my new mentors and see where we might need to adjust or rethink.

I understood the concept of a mentor, but never really understood how beneficial one could be until sitting down this past week with the team from SCORE.  It only took 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I realized that one of the most genius decisions I had made so far was to set up this meeting.  I not only was able to find mentors, but I also feel a lot more grounded.  I look forward to developing a relationship with these two gentlemen further.  Best of all, this came at a price that would make any entrepreneur happy... FREE.  If you have not checked our SCORE before, then I suggest you do.  They have a ton of volunteers that come from a wide range of backgrounds.  I only wished I had found this resource about 4 weeks earlier.
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