Last week at a friend’s wedding, I sat at a table with some strangers who were discussing something spectacular though I have never given it a thought before — the significance of best couples in marriages. They were discussing the tradition and the role a best couple plays in the new relationship.

To emphasise a point, an elderly woman in the group confessed that were it not for their best couple, her marriage would not have lasted a year.

In an ideal situation, the best couple plays the role of parents and mentors to the newlyweds, introducing them to the marriage institution, guiding them before, during and after the wedding. They tell the newlyweds  what to expect and what to do during the honeymoon, how to relate to each other in their new roles, how to handle in-laws and relatives from both sides and most importantly, how to handle numerous minor conflicts and disagreement peacefully as the get to understand each other better.

In business, a best couple may be equated to a business mentor, which incidentally so many start-up entrepreneurs take for granted, but they later pay dearly for this error of judgment.

Most people will tell you that before marriage they thought they knew a lot, but that through the eyes and guidance of the best couple, they realised how far from the reality they were. Likewise, most investors will attest that before venturing into business they thought they knew so much only to realise the situation on the ground is different from book theories, grapevine stories and their intuition about business.

Mentorship is something every entrepreneur should have. Without a mentor we are bound to fail or if we succeed, pay high cost by  learning from mistakes and oversights.

Mentors provide practical guidance as they have been there, they have made mistakes and they have failed and learnt how to embrace failure and chase opportunities including those that are disguised as dirty work.

Many people venture into businesses with scanty information on how to produce or acquire goods, how to market them and seek help when need arises. A mentor, who ideally should be someone who has been in the industry before ,with appreciable success and experience becomes handy in guiding you on where to go and where to avoid going.

As an entrepreneur you need a mentor to help you keep the focus, passions and ideals that made you choose to venture in business in times of storms and distractions that can easily  derail the business.

By virtue of being in business for long, mentors have experience working with many customers, suppliers, bankers, investors and other stakeholders. Through them you can get access to these invaluable resources that can take you ages and cost an arm and a leg to acquire on your own. They reduce the learning curve tremendously.

Choosing a mentor is like choosing a best couple for your marriage. Basically you chose someone you know and look up to as a role model. These are people you are comfortable walking in their footsteps because they personify the ideas you cherish in life.

They should be people who believe in your dream and ability. They should be ambitious and successful but with their feet firmly on the ground. They should be able to demystify entrepreneurship and  ignite a fire within you with their optimism.

If you are planning to start a business, first find a mentor. Like a best couple, you don’t have to pay him. Most successful business people are willing to guide young ambitious entrepreneurs who are genuinely driven and focused.

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