Being self-employed for nearly 20 years I get these questions often, “what can I do to be successful?” And “what can I do to start my own business?” I will share my first response that I tell everyone, FIND A MENTOR. I opened my first business right after graduate school which was a tutoring center called “New Generation Tutorial Center”. I had no idea what I was doing for I received my masters degree in Theology not business or economics or anything that related to business. I figured it couldn’t be that hard right? Find a location, decorate the interior to fit the business, find staff, find customers, and let the money come pouring in! HA, if it was only that easy! In theory it is, but each part requires its own set of knowledge. For example, the first step of find a location…I was driving around my town for hours a day trying to do this on my own not realizing that if I found a broker I could have spent those hours on building the business rather than finding it. Then once I found a good location negotiationg the lease…since I had no experience the landlord made it out like a bandit. I felt I had to agree with all of their terms and I didn’t have a broker nor a business attorney to tell me otherwise. I can keep going on but I think the point is made. I had no experience, I was wasting countless hours of work and money due to my lack of knowledge. Looking a back to when I was 22 and beginning this venture I could look at it as shameful, but luckily I don’t because these were deep lessons that I can now share.
Once I finally got the business open and running I thought to myself, “If I could have had someone close to me to get advice it would have helped me do this much easier.” After I came to this realization I started to go out and look for a person who could be a mentor. (Just as a side note, unfortunately at this time right after my business opened my father passed from a rare form of cancer at the age of 49 and as I was building the business he was constantly in the hospital so as much as I wanted to ask him for advice it was phyically impossible.) In my mind, I thought how hard can this be? I figured many people would want to be a mentor to me since I’m young and ambitious…umm…this is a little embarrassing but everyone I asked turned me down. They were either too busy in their own businesses or never responded to me. I was pretty distraught to say the least. My father recently passed away, I couldn’t find a mentor, and I had a business I didn’t know how to run. After a little bit of time (a couple months) someone gave me a piece of advice which shouldn’t have been a revelation, but it felt like one at the time. They recommended I read the book by Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I took off, read that book, then read another book, and so on, reading everyday sometimes for hours early in the morning and taking notes. It was the biggest business revelation I’ve ever had, If I can’t find a physical mentor then pick up a book and let them be my mentors. I can have some of the greatest minds throughout history give me advice and guidance whenever I want. So, what happened with that business that a misguided 22 year started? I owned it for three years, figured out how to service over a thousand students during that time, and was able to sell it and move on to my next venture. Want to open a business or be successful? Pick up a Book!