Starting and growing a successful small business is not only challenging but can be a very scary—and lonely—experience. What is the failure rate for small business startups? Something like 80 percent in the first five years? And 80 percent for the next five years?
Suffice it to say those statistics put a lot of pressure on the small business owner to succeed. But in dealing with all that pressure, should a business owner try to tackle all of the issues on his or her own? Or is there a healthier way to deal with some of the issues?
One strategy that has worked successfully for my business for over 20 years has been enlisting the help of various mentors who have been able to assist me with a wide variety of business issues (startup financing, partnership split, etc.) Getting help from experienced business leaders who have “been there, done that” has been invaluable to me throughout my career. But where do you find them?
In the early days of my company I got the chance to meet and visit with Kemmons Wilson, who was the founder of Holiday Inn and a business legend. Mr. Wilson gave me not only encouragement but also sound advice in my company’s startup days. One tip he gave me? Work half a day: either the first 12 hours or the last. Priceless!
Other mentors include my late father and my brother, who both stressed the value of honesty, integrity, and ethics in building my business. Still others who have assisted me include several small-business owners (financial services and logistics firms) who helped me realize that my business problems weren’t exclusive to just ISI.
I cannot stress enough the value of reaching out and identifying mentors, since I truly believe they have been my secret weapons in helping me build a successful career. I have been fortunate to meet and listen to people who took an interest in me and provided timely advice, counseling, etc. For that I will always be grateful.