3 Reasons Why Leaders Need the Wisdom of Mentors and Friends
Starting a business can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, you shouldn’t!
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
When you’re busy trying to establish your own business and juggling the many different hats that come with being an entrepreneur, getting mentorship may be the farthest thing from your mind. But as some of the most brilliant minds have attested, advice from mentors and friends can make a world of difference.
This was precisely the topic at the third and final panel discussion at the Inc. 40 Philippine Forum held on April 24, 2017 at A SPACE Greenbelt. With moderator Manny Ayala, Managing Director of Endeavor Philippines, panelists Neel Chowdhury (CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Inc. Southeast Asia), Tim Michael (Co-founder & CEO of Get.place), and Maria Ressa (CEO & Executive Editor of Rappler) talked about the importance of getting wisdom from mentors and friends in a discussion entitled “Best Advice I Ever Got: Why Every Founder Needs Inspiration and How to Get It.”
Here are three takeaways for Southeast Asian entrepreneurs:
1. It’s lonely at the top; develop networks of trust
Business leaders have to make the most difficult decisions, as Ayala points out. “If you have to fire your CEO, or if you’re not going to make payroll, who would you talk to?” he asks.
This is precisely why Ressa went and recruited “all the best people” she knew from the industry for Rappler, so she would be surrounded by people she knew she could have uncomfortable conversations with. “I trust the people I work with,” she says. “I trust our board and our investors.”
For people who are new to the start-up scene, building a network may seem like a difficult task, but according to Michael—who has only been in the country for around two years—it shouldn’t be much of an issue in the Philippines. “The start-up scene here isn’t too big, so I got to know a lot of people quickly,” he explains, going on to say that when faced with an issue, he checks in with his network in Germany for advice as well.
2. You can’t excel in everything; find people who complement you
“Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has different experiences,” Michael adds. “You probably can’t find that one person who can mentor you in everything because nobody is an expert in everything. I just look for someone who has been in a similar situation before.”
Chowdhury takes on a similar view. “I tend to look for people who are doing things well that I’m not,” he says, confessing that he finds building networks is a challenge for him. “I would like to find a way to do that more and I’m constantly looking for ways that I can do that better.”
3. Getting (and giving) advice makes you a better entrepreneur; pay it forward
Starting your own company requires a lot of collaboration. As Ayala points out, even the smartest people in the world wouldn’t be able to get anything done if they didn’t know how to work with other people—how to give as well as take. The most successful people, he says as he summarizes Adam Grant’s bestseller Give and Take, are mindful and purposeful givers.
Ressa describes the Rappler newsroom as a place where industry veterans encourage their younger colleagues to grow by equipping them with “everything—contacts, sources, analyses.”
“We wanted to create a newsroom that was not just transparent, but also pays it forward,” she says. “There’s a phrase we always use—you give to get.”
Michael echoes these sentiments, saying, “It also benefits you in the long run if you help other people. Even if you don’t write it down or make an agreement, you make social contracts when you nurture relationships with other people.”
At Inc. Southeast Asia, Chowdhury says that he tries to infuse his staff with “the joy and adventure” of entrepreneurship. “I think the passion that many entrepreneurs have is contagious,” he says. “And I hope they come away with a greater sense of ownership. They understand that it’s not that difficult, and even when it is, if you persevere, something good will happen.”