As a business owner, you always look for ways to scale and grow your business.

However, one thing that could be holding you back is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

This famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld highlights a crucial concept that applies to businesses of all sizes – the idea that there are blind spots and gaps in our knowledge that we may not even be aware of.

The Importance of Knowing What You Don’t Know

As the business leader, you are an expert in your field, with years of experience and knowledge. However, even the most experienced and knowledgeable business owners have blind spots and areas lacking expertise. These blind spots prevent you from seeing opportunities or potential challenges that could and will impact both you and your business.

Not knowing what you don’t know can be especially damaging when scaling your business. Scaling is significantly different to growth and takes a different set of skills and experience.  It not only requires a deep understanding of your business, your customers, and your industry. But also requires identifying and pursuing growth opportunities while mitigating potential risks, whilst considering the size of the company and the ongoing strategic considerations at each stage of growth. You need to fully understand these factors to avoid missing out on opportunities or making costly mistakes that will prevent your business from reaching its full potential.

The Benefits of Mentorship

Working with a mentor is one way to overcome the limitations of not knowing what you don’t know. A mentor has experience across many industries and can offer guidance and advice based on both their own experiences, and that of the many other clients they have supported. They help you identify blind spots and gaps in your knowledge and provide insights and strategies for overcoming them.

Here are but a few of the ways a mentor can help you scale your business:

  • Mentors can provide an objective viewpoint and offer fresh perspectives on your business, which can help you identify new opportunities and potential areas for improvement.
  • Mentors can share their industry knowledge and experience, providing insights into trends and best practices you may not know.
  • Mentors can offer guidance and support as you navigate the challenges of scaling your business. They can advise everything from marketing and sales to hiring and finance.
  • Mentors often have their own network of contacts and can introduce you to potential partners, clients, or investors.

This is why I’m often surprised to see how few leaders actively seek out the independent assistance of someone capable of supporting them to avoid (or embrace) challenges with more competence and confidence.

What are the risks of not accessing the support of a Mentor

One of the biggest risks of not accessing a mentor’s services is the possibility of missing out on opportunities. Mentors have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can help identify areas of growth and expansion that a business owner may have yet to consider.

  • A business owner may make costly mistakes without a mentor’s guidance and expertise. These mistakes can range from financial mismanagement to poor decision-making, which can significantly impact a business’s long-term success.
  • A business owner may lack direction and focus without a mentor. A mentor can help create a strategic plan and provide guidance on achieving specific business goals, which can help keep a business on track and moving forward.
  • Without a mentor, a business may stagnate and fail to grow. A mentor can provide fresh ideas and insights to help a business stay relevant and competitive in a constantly changing business landscape.
  • A mentor will help business owners expand their network and introduce them to potential clients, partners, and investors. A business owner may miss opportunities to build valuable relationships and partnerships without a mentor.

And in the longer term, not accessing a mentor’s services will significantly impact a business’s growth and success. The business may need a mentor’s guidance and support to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. This can lead to a lack of innovation and stagnation, ultimately making the business irrelevant or failing altogether.

Furthermore, with a mentor, a business owner may be able to develop the skills and knowledge needed to lead and manage a successful business. A mentor can help a business owner build expertise in areas such as finance, marketing, and sales, which can significantly impact a business’s long-term success.

However, one of the biggest observations I’ve made in the past 10+ years of Business Mentoring is, not being accountable to anyone can also have a significant impact on a business owner’s ability to succeed. While being the boss can empower and give a sense of autonomy, it can also lead to blind spots and biases hindering a business’s growth.

With a mentor or advisor, a business owner may receive feedback and input from those who report directly to them or share similar views, limiting their perspective and ability to make informed decisions. This can result in missed opportunities, poor decision-making, and an inability to adapt to changing market conditions.

Additionally, being the boss leads to a lack of accountability, as there is no one to hold the business owner responsible for their actions and decisions. This can lead to complacency and a lack of urgency to address issues or take risks, ultimately harming a business’s long-term success.

Mentorship provides a sense of accountability, challenging business owners to think critically about their decisions and actions. They can offer objective feedback, highlight areas for improvement, and provide guidance on overcoming challenges. This can help a business owner avoid blind spots and biases, make more informed decisions, and achieve greater success.

How to Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor may seem daunting, but there are several ways to do it. Here are some tips for finding a mentor:

  • Contact colleagues, industry peers, or even former professors or mentors. They may introduce you to someone in your industry who could serve as a mentor. Almost 2/3 of my mentoring clients come from personal recommendations.
  • Attend conferences, trade shows, and other industry events. These events allow you to network with other professionals in your field and potentially identify a mentor. Pre-pandemic and lockdown, around 1/3 of new enquiries came from me speaking at conferences, trade shows and events, sharing our Get BIG or Go Home – #ADDAZERO methodology.
  • Many organisations offer coaching/mentorship programs that pair mentees with experienced professionals. And whilst My TrueNORTH is exceptionally proud of the achievements our clients gain by working with us, I very much acknowledge that our approach isn’t for all. I gladly recommend other coaching/mentoring programmes to those who determine our methodology or style of support is not for them.

After all, we firmly believe in Win | Win | Win outcomes!

Therefore, Donald Rumsfeld’s quote, “you don’t know, what you don’t know,” is a powerful reminder of the limitations of our knowledge and the importance of seeking out guidance and support. As a business owner, not knowing what you don’t know can prevent you from scaling and growing your business. Whilst working with a Scaleup mentor will help overcome limitations and unlock new potential.

If you’d like to learn more about the #ADDAZERO Methodology and our approach to scaleup (That has led to no less than 10 finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards) You can start by accessing the #ADDAZERO Scaleup Scorecard, and receiving a free, bespoke, in-depth report on the current opportunities and vulnerabilities within your business!

Get your #Addazero Scorecard here, and begin working on how to #ADDAZERO