I started my career as a tech entrepreneur in a city with very few (if any) tech entrepreneurs. As much as I had plenty of people to look up to morally, ethically, and personally, I struggled to find someone whom I could look up to in my career or in my industry.
I was introduced to the man who would become my mentor by a mutual friend. He became an early investor in Mountain Khakis, and I came to know him and appreciate him initially as a smart investor and even better person. I would give him updates, and he would react; in that reaction, I realized that he had a unique gift for processing information quickly – meaning that if we were talking about something complex and bringing him up the curve in 18 minutes, he just got it. And then, we could talk about it. It was a special skill. It was valuable skill. He impressed me.
We asked him to join our board at MK; then, over time, he became a personal friend and mentor. I found that I wanted to spend more time with him because I wanted to learn from him. I also noticed something really important about our time together: when I left meetings with him, I was more energized than when we sat down. He GAVE me energy.
Those two elements – the desire to learn from him and the energy I got from him – became two of the non-negotiables that I talk about with young people when I recommend they form a personal board of directors.
Truth be told, a personal board of directors is a valuable team for anyone at any age because it’s a proactive attempt to surround yourself with the people who can advise you across a couple different categories. You’ll be able to do deeper, more impactful work when you have the right team supporting you.
To start shaping your personal board of directors, look for three or four people who:
Share your moral compass – they share the same overarching philosophies, ethics, morals; they make decisions in a way that either you already do or in a way you respect.
Have the experience to teach you about a different business or industry – quality knowledge and experience that you can then apply in your context that can help you create your own value. (You’ll be amazed how many different insights that’ll spark for you and what’s possible when you work through those insights.)
Restore, refresh, spark, enrich your energy level or motivation – get rid of people who drain your energy. Right. Now.
The deeper you get into business or entrepreneurship, you’ll find that you’ll need a sounding board; you’ll be presented with a situation that you won’t know how to handle or deal with – and that’s when you need a handful of people who can advise you, support you, encourage you as both a mentor and a friend.