Mentorship, Seeking Advice & Adopting a Beginners Mindset

Andrew Everingham is the Founder and CEO of Capital-e, a marketing and events company based in Sydney, Australia. During their thirteen years in business, Capital-e has worked with some of the world’s most exciting and leading tech change-making organizations. In this interview for Follow the Founder, Andrew talks how mentorship and advice can transform your company and shares some of what he wishes he’d done differently.

Starting your company is as exciting as it is overwhelming. Many people, especially first-time Founders, set up their venture with a limited budget, almost making them obliged to do it all by themselves. But even with the needed capital, some continue this trend, resulting in failing or slow-growing businesses. We speak with Andrew about how Founders can approach this process differently, tipping the scales in their favor, and increasing their chances of success. He shares his take on the best approach that will make your entrepreneurial journey easier. 

“You want to try to find a way to talk to someone. Especially brand-new, fresh Founders. Spend the time to do that. Don’t race, don’t rush into it. You will create a situation where you’d have to rework a lot of what you’ve done.”

Asking for advice or seeking a mentor is something he wishes he had done at the beginning of his journey. There are many reasons Founders stray away from this, be it pride, fear of failure, or simply the pressure of being good enough from the start.

“If I had been smart enough to go and seek advice from people, I think I would have been smart enough to listen to that advice… 

“But you’re not asking because there’s a vulnerability there. It’s a bit like saying, ‘Hey, I’ve never run my own business before. I’m putting my hand up to say to you, ‘What would you do?’ This exposes that I might not have the answers. A lot of Founders think they have to have all the answers. You’re going to run this great new company. You better know what you’re doing. But in reality, you have no idea about the pressure you’ll be under or how hard it’s going to be.”

Business mentorship is severely underrated even though research supports how helpful it is. According to Forbes, mentored startups grow 3.5x faster and raise 7x more money [1]. However, it’s not only first-time Founders who avoid it.

“I think there’s some repeat offenders out there, not only first-time Founders. I think they do believe that it’s all on them, even if they don’t always stand up to a successful operation. I think they’ve got an idea, and they just decide to go for it on their own. They don’t see the council of others that have gone before.

“I will put myself down as one of those. When I was starting Capital-e, I had a feeling it was a pretty good idea. I had a feeling that I had the right infrastructure network and community around me. And luckily enough, the funds to be able to give it a red hot go. But what I didn’t do was go and talk to other Founders who had done something similar or completely different to say, ‘Hey, What would you do differently? What’s the best piece of advice you had when you started the company?’. Had I done that, I would have avoided a certain number of years of struggle. And reworking and reworking of things that I could have approached in a far cleaner way than I did. I get the opportunity frequently to talk to people who are thinking about doing their own thing, and I get the chance to say that upfront.

“For example, I should have had a financial advisor before I went and registered my company or set myself up as an entity because of the amount of trauma I created for my then-acquired CFO resource to go back and rework the structure of my business. I didn’t know what I was doing. How many shares do you want? I don’t know. What sounds good? Let’s make those numbers up! I wasn’t equipped.”

The truth is, a lot of Founders feel they are not worthy to have these conversations with the people they admire. The fear of embarrassment, the vulnerability, and the creeping imposter feelings are all understandable. However, successful Founders as a whole enjoy mentoring others. Not only does this prompt them to relive and reflect on their own journey, but it helps battle their own imposter syndrome. Andrew agrees.

“I love being a mentor to people. Even if it’s just transient mentorship rather than an instruction-style engagement. Every time I walk away from a session where I offered some mentorship it gives me so much to think about my current situation. It’s actually a two-way exchange when you’re talking to somebody about what the brand new thing that they’re going to have to address, you’re also looking at some of those things that are existent in your business here and now.” 

Circling back to imposter syndrome, a big topic for Follow the Founder’s community, we ask Andrew about his take on it. 

“Imposter syndrome is real, right? When you decide that you’re going to do this thing, you summon up all that self-esteem, that encouragement, and you walk in, and you put that money on the table, and you go, ‘Right, we’re going to start this company. Let’s get going!’ But then you turn around and you think, ‘What am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know if this idea is going to work!’

“However, there’s a seesaw that I tried to embrace. On one end, there is the imposter syndrome, but on the other, you get what is referred to as a beginner’s mindset. So you can go between ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m doubting myself. I’m floating out there.’ This can be a real self-esteem ruiner. But the beginner mindset shows you the situation in a different light. You go, ‘Hang on a second. I don’t know things. I’m a beginner, I picked up the racket for the first time today, and I might be holding it on the wrong end. But that’s how I learn.’ 

“If you can embrace that, it then allows you to look at yourself more holistically and say, ‘Yes, I don’t know everything, but gosh, look at these bits that I do know! They’re really solid to my central cause here!’ “

Flipping your mindset can be a really powerful experience. Also, a healthier and more productive way to look at your business.

The last piece of advice is to equally prioritize your business and your idea.

“A lot of Founders are out there on a wing and a prayer, the great idea, it’s fantastic. But like many, they don’t approach the business of their idea. They might have a great concept, a great revenue model for being able to go out and sell their product. But what they haven’t considered is the business of business. 

“And that is ongoing. You never get that 100% right. You are always resetting, you’re always tinkering.”

The need is to start planning all that going forward at the beginning. Even the most seasoned Founders are always learning. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, ask for help, have these conversations. This is where joining our community at Follow the Founder will help. We provide this opportunity to learn from fellow Founders and use this as a launching point to have these conversations. Conversations with people who are interested in starting their own businesses, with people who have experience and would love to mentor others, even with the cheerleaders who are just there to support. Learning is the journey, get advice from someone similar, who has been there, someone who is maintaining a reasonably sized company. It does not need to be Bezos or Zuckerberg. 

Having a diverse network and mentorship is so incredibly important. It helps skip some of the hard-learned lessons. So join us at Follow the Founder. You can also find us on Instagram  or LinkedIn.

References:

[1] 11 Surprising and Insightful Facts About Startups, Adno Riani, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/abdoriani/2019/10/24/11-surprising-and-insightful-statistics-about-startups/

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