11 Hard Decisions Made for Mentors

By Scott Gerber,
business.com writer
Oct 29, 2013
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

No matter how hard you try, you can't succeed with a startup all by yourself. Luckily, if you surround yourself with supportive people and network well, a good mentor isn't hard to find.

Mentors can have the perspective you need that can't see yourself. Need proof?

We asked a panel of 11 startup founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), a group of successful entrepreneurs, to share a time when they got some really good advice from a mentor or advisor -- and how their final decision affected their business.

1. Making the Decision to Let My Partner Go

I launched MeUndies with my closest childhood friend whom I admired and looked up to all my life. After launching the company, it became apparent we wanted to take the company in different directions, and his passion diminished over time. Letting my partner know he had to go was extremely hard. Jody Sherman helped me make the decision and supported me to do what needed to be done. RIP JS. - Jonathan Shokrian, MeUndies Inc.

2. Making the Decision to Avoid Bribes

One time, our business was approached by a government official to pay a bribe instead of paying directly to the government offices. My father advised me to pay the fine directly to the government regardless of the cost. He mentioned that once word got around that we paid bribes, we would be targeted again in the future. We learned from the mistake, and we haven't been approached since. - Derek Capo, Next Step China

3. Making the Decision to Refuse Funding

I actually had a VC tell me, "You don't need more money. Stick it out, stay lean, and you'll succeed. The business is sound as is." I'm forever grateful for that advice. We would have given up more equity. Extra cash brings both advantages and pressures. We just needed to move forward and stick with our plan. I needed to hear that, and the advice got us through the tough time. - Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas

4. Making the Decision to Believe in Myself

My friend and mentor, Jenni Flinders, told me to believe in myself during the toughest time of putting my company together. It reassured me that I was heading in the right direction and should stick it out. The outcome is that we were able to launch our company, and it's been everything we hoped it would be. - Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

5. Making the Decision to Do Layoffs in One Round

During the economic downturn of 2009, I sought out advice from a mentor about reducing expenses through layoffs. He said, "If I could give you one piece of advice regarding layoffs, it is that when they happen, you need to go as deep as possible." My mentor argued that it's better to go deep out of the gate to avoid more than one round of layoffs. - Kristopher Jones, ReferLocal.com

6. Making the Decision to Get Back on the Horse

Once, I had a dispute with a co-founder that spun out of control. All seemed hopeless, and we were headed to court. I shamefully shared this with a mentor who I thought, given the time and energy he had spent helping us, would be angry. Instead of berating me or shaming me, he told me, "Welcome to the rodeo. You just got bucked off. There's no shame in that. Just get back on your horse." - Patrick Vlaskovits, The Lean Entrepreneur

7. Making the Decision to Go out on My Own

I was in a partnership, and it became clear that our business goals had diverged. I was nervous about going on my own, but my dad (who's also an entrepreneur) supported and encouraged me to do it. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. - Peter Baumgartner, Lincoln Loop

8. Making the Decision to Move to Thailand

After leaving my job four years ago, I had no clue what I was going to do. A mentor of mine convinced me to move to Thailand to live cheaply, have an adventure and, most importantly, build my entrepreneurial skill set online. It was cheap to live, a ton of fun, and it formed the basis for every business I've started since. - Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

9. Making the Decision to Reward Paying Customers

One of the first major challenges I faced as an entrepreneur was not so much creating sales, but collecting payments. We were growing, and so were our receivables. My mentor gave me a creative approach to incentivizing customers to pay us faster. We began offering perks to customers who paid us faster than their term. After all, the sale really doesn't count until you collect. - Vinny Antonio, Victory Marketing Agency

10. Making the Decision to Speak My Clients' Language

My mentor gave me the confidence to pursue value-based, flat-rate pricing, which is still unusual in marketing agencies. He steered me toward using the language of my clients (i.e., marketing execs care about leads, not about how many pages or words are in a white paper) rather than the jargon of traditional publishing. Both decisions have served as the foundation of our success. - Mary Ellen Slayter, Reputation Capital

11. Making the Decision to Explore a B2B Model

One of my mentors encouraged me to explore an alternative business-to-business model. I remember delivering the following line in a board meeting: "We used to pay $150,000 and get 10,000 new end users every month. Now, we're getting paid $150,000 and getting 100,000 new end users every month." - Noah Glass, OLO

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

(Image: via freedigitalphotos.net)

Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.
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