As a small-business owner, you make hundreds of decisions every day—some of which will have a lasting effect on your business. Sometimes the solutions you need aren’t as obvious to you as you might hope. In those instances, you might want expert advice to help steer you in the most productive and profitable directions.
How do you define expert help, and what qualifications should a mentor have? For starters, he or she…
- Should be well-equipped with ample experience in your chosen industry where you’re creating your business (tech, e-commerce, fashion)
- Has expanded his or her business
- Has worked in certain aspects you seek guidance with (PR, marketing, social media)
- Has interest in being involved in your startup idea
Everyone needs a mentor. Even Steve Jobs did not rise to success overnight, and required the guidance of many a mentor to make it big.
Resource #1: Quora
To say that Quora is a treasure trove full of answers that would satisfy almost every question that’s burning in your mind is an understatement! Here’s how to maximize your Quora usage.
First, register yourself. This can be done fairly easy via Google, Twitter, or Facebook Connect. You may also opt to sign up via email. Once that’s done, you’ll need to add at least 10 subjects that interest you.
Upon doing so, you’ll finally be presented with your very own feed. The feed is a hive of activity, constantly buzzing with new questions and answers from people and subjects that you follow. Each question is conveniently tagged with the topics you have previously chosen.
Next up, comes upvoting. You may choose to read and absorb all the information in your feed, but what’s even more fun is to upvote (or downvote—yikes!). Upvoting is a virtual incentive of sorts that encourages people to answer. Apart from boosting their confidence, you get your feed enhanced with tons of useful (and sometimes funny) advice.
Now, this is the crucial part of tapping into Quora as source of startup advice—the “follow” button allows you to follow a particular user so that whatever they post will be shown on your feed. Some of the notable startup experts who are active on Quora (follow them pronto!) include Anil Dash, who blogs at Dashes.com, and co-founded ThinkUp and Activate, as well as Nick Taranto from Plated.
Resource #2: LinkedIn
LinkedIn has been touted as the Facebook of the business world, but did you know that it’s also a great resource for priceless expert advice? Here’s how you get the most out of it.
Step 1: Log in to LinkedIn. You should have already furnished your profile with the necessary information. It won’t do to have a potential mentor look at your barely-there profile.
Step 2: Head straight to the “Discover” section, where you’ll step into Pulse, the heart and soul of LinkedIn.
Step 3: Scroll down to see the LinkedIn Influencer section, where you’ll be able tap into valuable insights from top industry leaders. Seek out relevant influencers and follow them by looking at their profiles. If they are equipped with the necessary skills and experience you seek, send them a request to connect.
Tip: Send a concise message requesting to connect stating your objectives. Let your passion shine through. These influencers receive a truckload of invitations to connect each day, so you’ll want to stand out and make an impression.
Resource #3: LivePerson
For as low as mere cents per minute, you get to tap into some of the most brilliant minds in the industry—be it technology, education, health, business, design, and even spirituality. LivePerson is an advice marketplace of sorts, the go-to place if you seek expert insight without doing all the tedious wooing just to get a mentor to connect with you on say, LinkedIn.
Step 1: Select the category where you’ll most likely discover the expert you want to seek advice from. You can sort them according to their ranks, price, and experience.
Step 2: Select the best expert that meets your budget and mode of communication (opt for live online chat instead phone call if you think the latter hurts your productivity). Check out their profile and browse through the reviews left by other satisfied callers.
Step 3: Hire the expert. You can do so by initiating a call, or by emailing the expert you desire.
Resource #4: SCORE
Need to impress investors with a shiny new business plan? Look no further. Apart from expert advice, you’ll also be able to get mentors on SCORE to draft and revise your business plan. Using their experience, you’ll receive expert guidance as well as personalized answers within 48 hours.
Prefer to meet with a potential mentor for some face time? Perform a quick local mentoring request by simply keying in your zip code, select the nature of mentoring you seek, and provide your details. You’ll be connected to a volunteer around your area.
Resource #5: Ideaswatch
Ideaswatch may have more newbie startup founders testing the waters than mentors and gurus, but you’ll never know who’s lurking about! The site is a great resource for ideas and inspiration to get you started on the right track, and at the same time, becomes the perfect startup playground for you to toss around ideas and plans.
For starters, you can share your idea, or peruse through a wealth of ideas other people are projecting. Additionally, you may choose to partner up with a bright startup founder-to-be, and possibly be part of a winning team! The possibilities are out there, and Ideaswatch may just help you realize your dreams.
What are the best ways to hold an online conversation with a chosen startup expert? Here are some of the best tools and apps you may utilize:
In a Nutshell:
You may be rejoicing about getting (free) excellent advice from experts you follow online, but what’s even more important is to do proper research and planning when it comes to propelling your startup toward success, and ultimately, staying away from the path of oblivion treaded by so many now-defunct businesses.
Have you used any of these resources to find a mentor and get advice for your business? Which did you find the most helpful, or do you have a suggestion that we missed? Share it with us in the comments!