The Best Business Mentors Are Brutally Honest

There's no point having a business role model who sugar coats everything.

13/05/2016 12:38 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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It helps to have a business role model who tells you how it is.

Failure comes with the territory of any start up or small business in Australia.

About 60 per cent of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will close their doors within the first three years of opening, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Health care and social assistance, however, has the highest rate of business survival, with nearly 75 per cent of businesses surviving over a four year period.

But one thing that can set your business apart from all the others is having a mentor who is willing to share their failures, and not just their successes.

Accountant and business advisory Hayes Knight SME expert Greg Hayes said business mentors could turn around a failing enterprise, and that the best mentors were brutally honest.

"SMEs tend to be optimists and entrepreneurs," Hayes said.

"You need to understand that failures are possible and part of being a business owner is to recognise the possibility and then put in place risk mitigation."

Hayes said mentors fulfilled a niche role between a friendship and an advisor.

"Your mentor doesn't have to sugar-coat things or be influenced by other relationships," Hayes said.

"It's better that you respect your mentor than have them as a close friend, but it might be possible to have both, providing the mentor is strong enough."

Multi-platform publication Collective Hub chief executive Lisa Messenger prides herself on sharing her failures along with her successes to the start-ups that constantly reach out to her.

"I am always very honest and let people know the journey to success is made up of mistakes," Messenger said.

"The only way to learn from mentors or role models is when they tell you where they went wrong. There's no point only sharing the good times.

"I let people know I'm a normal, everyday person doing my thing and having some success. But I've also made mistakes along the way and that's part of being in business."

Lisa Messenger
The Collective CEO Lisa Messenger shares her successes and failures

When Messenger started The Collective in 2013, she said people called her "insane" yet in an industry where some magazines are failing, The Collective now sells in 37 countries.

"Everybody said I was crazy," Messenger said.

"But everything I do goes against the norm of what people said could be done. My entire life is about telling people 'follow your crazy dreams'.

"Think about the person who invented the pool noodle. Everybody said 'you're nuts.' But he just put himself out there and got the pool noodle on the market.

"What pool doesn't have a pool noodle? No idea is too crazy. In fact, my craziest ideas are by far the most successful things I have done."

Someone, somewhere had the idea to make a pool noodle, and we all thank them.

Messenger's latest book is all about how a major setback can spark a breakthrough. She said her best advice for start-ups was to follow their hearts and be the very best version of themselves.

"For me, it's all about helping people find their passion and their purpose. Once you have that, the serendipity is just extraordinary and things just start to flow. I love using my life as a conduit to help people live their very best life."

Lorraine Murphy from influencer-brand relationships advisor The Remarkables Group credits much of her success to having Messenger as a role model who passed on practical tips -- but also told her about the dirty side of business.

"Entrepreneurship has taken on a fairy-tale quality in recent years, and it helped that she told me how it really is -- it's messy, hard, and problems can seem insurmountable," Murphy said.

"However, with the right attitude and people around you, anything is possible."

Dani Stevens is a food and fitness motivator and a mother of four who has found business success on social media –- with 147,000 followers on Instagram, a collaboration with chef Jamie Oliver and a new partnership with Twitter.

Stevens told Huffpost Australia she was no overnight success and her career had been riddled with people telling her she wouldn't succeed.

"There are always those who love to tell you you can't do it," Stevens said.

"So I always tell business startups that reach out to me for advice that you have to find the positive people in your life who remind you that you can do it.

"I'm now at a stage where I am being a mentor to other business people, mostly mothers who want to start a work from home business and they reach out to me to ask me how I managed to get such a big following within just a couple of years."

Dani Stevens
Dani Stevens is a food and fitness motivator.

Greg Hayes said the best mentors fill in a part of the learning curve for a business owner.

"For some it will save them a lot of time and pain in mistakes they would have otherwise made.

"Most SMEs are fiercely independent so it does not automatically follow that they will follow the lead given.

"A mentor is a source of knowledge and a sounding board, but it's important to remember they are not a guarantee of success."

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