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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Mentoring Project - Session 3: 'What?'

We are now half way through the mentoring project.  The third session focused on the theme ‘What?’ and I personally experienced a real shift in perception during this session.   There was this lovely sense of honesty from the group on what else is going on in their lives and how this affects starting up their business.  It reminded me that good things take time and to not try and hurry the process too much.   

I had previously suggested that the Mentee’s ‘get real’ on the numbers and milestones that they need to reach to achieve their goals so that they could work out a realistic month by month plan to then follow (I have provided some templates to help you do this in the document downloads area of the www.businessofbrave.com website).  This process brought up a couple  of interesting things that then carved out what we will focus on between now and the fourth session: 

1.  When you start committing to take action to start up a business, other areas of change may naturally start occurring in your life and you might need to be a little brave with these… 

Some of these changes can seem scary, but they can also help you work towards your new goals.  There was a lot of change happening in the group this week.  One Mentee was told that she was being made redundant, one was advised of a change in job and of a potential amazing job offer overseas. One Mentee is just finishing a contract role and another Mentee revealed that there are two other business lines that she has been exploring and involved in so in fact her plan is going to now encompass setting up three business lines. 

Some of these changes are actually helping the Mentee’s on their journey (e.g. a redundancy package including some training in the area that one of the Mentee wants to move towards with her own business).  Even though change can be a shock (particularly a redundancy), sometimes it can give us the push we need or the freedom we need (but that we were scared of), to move forward with our new adventure.  

2. Life goes on around setting up your business, so your milestones and time frames should be as realistic as possible.

We had a bit of a reality check with the fact that things always take longer than you plan and with all of the life changes in the group right now, it’s important to allow for these in their long term plans.  A potential dream job overseas for one Mentee might mean that it pushes her business launch out by 5 years but if this job helps her towards this, then can be a good realistic strategy.  This also brought up the importance of ‘balance’ in your life and not trying to do too much at once when life can have so many day to day demands. 

3.  You need to ask for help!

The Mentee who was the focus for the session brought up the fact that she had realised through this process that she needed to get better at ‘asking for help’ and that she needed to grow her networks to help her get the help she needs.  Everyone in the group also agreed that asking for help can be a hard thing to get comfortable with.   This then revealed to us what the focus of the next session would be which is ‘Asking for help’

So how do you ask for help?

I truly believe that you can’t set up a business completely by yourself.  You need help and the more help you can get, the better your end result will be.  I also think that there is a constant ‘serve and return’ element that is necessary for learning and becoming good at what you do (hence the power of finding the right mentors in your journey and in the many ways/shapes/forms they come in). 

Before you ask for help, you need to be clear on your ‘story’ and your ‘intention’ behind asking for help. 

This comes back to the focus of the first session which was ‘Why’ are you doing this, and how can you bring the emotional connection into what you are doing in order to trigger the right responses in people?   A great book on creating the emotional connection between a brand and consumers is ‘Love Marks’ by Kevin Roberts (Global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi).  There is a lot of really great and valuable information on his website  and you can see a quick video of him speaking below.  Having a clear intention and purpose usually means that whilst you might feel a little nervous picking up the phone or preparing an email to a stranger, you will feel reasonably comfortable in asking for help.  I think that this book is good for helpiing you with the story of your brand but also your own story for times when you are asking for help.

Set yourself up for 999 'No’s' (assuming that by 1000, you'll get a 'YES!').

No’s are tough no matter how confident or self assured you are.  Beyond anything, I think that you need to be determined and resilient to be able to shake off rejection and retain the belief that if a door doesn’t open, it’s just not your door and to keep knocking until you find the right doors that do open.  Also - take constructive feedback from the No's and use them to tweak and pivot your strategy/products or services.  The important thing is to just ask!  What is the worst that can happen?  They can only say no.  I personally would prefer to live with 999 No’s than regret that I just never asked...

So how do you grow your networks?

There has never been an easier time than now to research organisations or people that might be able to help you through the internet.  I suggest that you make up an excel spreadsheet that you use as a 'Contact Strategy' document.  This is your universe of people who may potentially help you (a living, breathing document that records who you contact, dates, actions e.t.c).  This document will also ensure that your approach is professional and you avoid asking someone the same thing twice or not following up on an action.  You can download an example template from the www.businessofbrave.com website if you would like to use it or get ideas from it.

I cannot recommend www.linkedin.com highly enough for growing great business networks.  We all have a ‘Linkedin Strategy’ but I think generally people will connect with you if they see that you have trusted connections in common.  So if there is someone that you want to connect with, (who would probably not just randomly connect with someone they have never heard of), sometimes it’s good to start connecting to other people around that person first.  Through doing this, you learn from them as you go and will likely then eventually be able to connect to the person that you wanted to connect with.  In my experience, it’s quite often the people around the person that you want to connect with who may help you more!  

Also, make sure you build a really great Linkedin profile.  Here is a fantastic post by HR guru Liz Ryan  where she talks about the five deadliest personal branding mistakes 

When you do manage to connect with the right person, have a very short, simple, clear message for them and include information that shows how passionate you are about what you are doing or how much work you have already done towards your goal.  It’s also good to be able to give them the confidence that you know about their work and therefore why it makes sense for you to be asking them for help.  There are some example emails to give you some ideas on the www.businessofbrave.com website. 

Nothing beats a personal connection though!  If you can get a 20 min coffee with someone in person, you can gain so much.   Joining networks and organisations that meet up physically is a great way to meet the right people and learn and grow.  Ultimately, I think that if you put time and effort into what you are doing and time and effort into contacting the right people, they will respect the work that you have done, the passion that you have and will help you - even if it's a 'No' - everyone helps in your journey (and in fact sometimes the 'No's' are the best help you can ever get!)

I hope that this helps you. All other session videos, documents and templates can be found at www.businessofbrave.com 

See you next session!

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