With the fourth quarter rolling along, there’s no question that how to thrive in business is at the forefront of many of our minds. Because of this collective concern, we’ve focused our attention this month on succeeding in business. When we stop to think about the ONE Thing that we each need to do to build our businesses, we often reach the same conclusion: find the right person to guide us to the right decisions.
With this outcome in mind, we recently sat down with Nick Alter, founder of Alter Endeavors. As the founder of a digital marketing agency that works with multiple brands to grow their online impact, we wanted to get his thoughts on the importance of mentors. As the president of his Business Network International chapter, Nick is committed to helping businesses grow.
KellerINK Team: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Let’s dive right in. What advice would you have for a young person who approaches you and asks “What is the ONE Thing I can do for my small business such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”
Nick Alter: The very first thing I would tell them is to find a mentor, someone who will understand your goals and ambitions and has proven success accomplishing their own goals. But in order to find the person who is the right fit for your business and life, you need to be working on yourself too. You may not know exactly what your ONE Thing is yet – and that’s okay – but you have to start somewhere to figure it out. This means defining what you think your daily tasks are. A mentor can help you refine those “to-dos” down to the “should-dos” that lead to your ONE Thing. Make a list. Keep a journal. Reflect on what you spend your time doing. What do you think is a waste of your time, and what is proving to be the most helpful thing you do to bring yourself closer to your goals? What are your goals? Do you have examples of folks who have succeeded in ways similar to what you are trying to accomplish? Read, take notes, and find examples of success. Talk to people who have successfully set and achieved their goals. And lastly, endure. Push through because answering this question is fairly daunting, and it can even be paralyzing. Try to actually enjoy that process.
KellerINK Team: Why is it important to find a mentor to help get your business in order?
Nick Alter: This person can be the key to your business success. They’ll be your cheerleader and they should also be your antagonist. They won’t make decisions for you, but they will either encourage you or challenge you about the decisions you make for yourself. You will make big decisions as you grow– people will offer you things, opportunities will arise and mistakes will be made. The right mentor can be used as a sounding board– don’t be afraid to tell this person everything. They should be someone that commands your utmost respect as well as someone you will listen to no matter how hard it is to hear. They should be able to smack you upside the head and deflate your ego when your hat gets a little too tight to bear. But this person will also build you up and be there during the inevitable times when things start to hit the fan.
KellerINK Team: What made you want to become a mentor to other small business owners and entrepreneurs?
Nick Alter: I like to tell people what to do –just kidding. I like solving problems. I love seeing people succeed. Sometimes it’s part of my job as a digital marketing consultant, and sometimes, unapologetically, it’s for selfish reasons. Some of it is just part of my inherent nature as an extrovert, and sometimes it really is because I like to tell people what to do. Other times it’s about listening and commiserating over drinks or coffee. I like teaching folks, and there is no better classroom than real-life scenarios and applications we experience as small business owners every day.
KellerINK Team: Based on your experience with both being and having a mentor in your life, where do you suggest someone can find a mentor that’s the “right” fit for their own life?
Nick Alter: Remember, a mentor is a person you can trust with the deepest, darkest secrets about your business. This is someone who needs to understand what you are trying to accomplish and has experience successfully defining and executing goals. My first mentors were my scout master and my best friends’ dad – my best friends are twins, by the way. Look at the people either in your inner circle or on the periphery of your inner circle first. It could be a professor or a teacher with real-world experience beyond the classroom or who is just incredibly savvy.
You have to be sure, of course, that their experience is relevant to what you are doing. If you are going into medical technology production, a commercial real estate expert may not be the best fit for you – although there will always be exceptions to this generality. One of my mentors owns a moving company. It works for me because we both operate service-oriented businesses, and we focus quite a bit on communication, process and qualities of leadership.
If you seriously can’t find anyone in your inner circle of connections, then it’s time to start networking. Attend events,use the internet to find the thought leaders in the industry, sign up for their events,and follow them on Twitter. If you meet a potential mentor at an event, see if you can get time on their schedule for something like an upcoming lunch. Get to know them,it’s not an immediate process most of the time. Use social media to figure out what kind of person your potential mentor is. When possible and within reason, be helpful to them as well.
But please do remember that a mentor needs to be someone who will make time for you. They will return your calls and answer your emails. They should respect what you are doing and want to help you succeed.
KellerINK Team: Do you have, or have you had, mentors in other areas of your life?
Nick Alter: You need to. Although, there is crossover. For example, my spiritual mentor and I talk about business quite often. My business mentor and I talk about spirituality quite often as well.
KellerINK Team: The time has come for our last hard-hitting question. Tell us, what’s the last book you read?
Nick Alter: There are two actually – The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth by Chris Brogan and Shattered by Kevin Hearne.
Find Your Mentor
Nick’s willingness to share his ideas today is yet another form of mentorship that can help the growth of others in business. We hope his advice will inspire you to search for the person that can help you bring your business to new heights. Tell us in the comments, what is your first step to finding that person in your life?