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Have a brilliant idea for a start-up? Get a mentor

Ruth Topham

It starts with a spark of inspiration. You see a gap in the market, an unmet need, a social problem that could be addressed with thought, innovation and hard work.

Done right, it could really make a difference. Done fast, it could steal a march on potential competitors. Done in a controlled manner, and you are in it for the long haul.

So what comes next?

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Doubt, that is what. Yes, maybe not for everyone, but for many. They may not be exactly these doubts or quite in this order, but still they come:

“There’s a reason why no one has managed to do this.” “I’ll never find the money to really get it going.” “I don’t have all the skills to do this.” “I’m just not sure I have it in me.” “How will I pay my bills and get this off the ground?”

The idea is still there, but it does not feel quite like ‘the one’ anymore. You stop scribbling notes about it and cast your mind to other things. For some, this happens in minutes or hours. For others, days.

If your first instinct was that your idea might really have legs, then there is a good chance that you are right. Of course, this does not guarantee success, not by a long way. But doing nothing definitely guarantees failure.

So, what do you do? Tell someone. You might be thinking: “But they’ll steal my idea!”

There are plenty of places to look for a mentor; you can try asking your industry association, or your local business growth hub or chamber of commerce as good places to start.

Find someone you trust, someone who will get your concepts, and just as importantly, somebody who can deliver honest feedback constructively. Tell them how you think your product will work, how you think you might go to market, how you plan to make money, maybe even how you plan to change the world.

Find a mentor and then tell them your doubts too. A great mentor will be able to help you work through your doubts. It will lead to refining your idea, it may even lead to killing your idea – hopefully for a better one – but whatever you do, find a great mentor and use him to help you give it due thought and attention.

Being an entrepreneur and business owner can be lonely. A mentor provides you with that sounding board to ensure you focus your energy where it counts and you make those big decisions with a clear head.

Having a mentor also means you are making an instant commitment – to follow your idea through and give it the thought it deserves. An instant commitment to believe in yourself.

You have already come up with the idea, there is a good chance you know a large proportion of what you need to know in the industry anyway. Most importantly, a great mentor will not give you the answers.