Written by Tarunjeet Rattan, mentee with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
When I quit my job and took the plunge into entrepreneurship and started my business I did it because I loved what I did – PR! I was happily unaware that the ‘entrepreneurship’ boat came with its own set of menial trappings. Yes, I called it ‘menial’ because to me it didn’t seem important. ‘Menial’ stuff like administration processes, human resources, legal work, strategising, etc. because I was a one woman army and had mastered everything I needed to know about my own business and honestly did I really need all this extra stuff? So I set out to launch my own public relations firm – Nucleus PR.
Well, lo and behold, the day I took up my first hire all of these shortcomings came sharply in focus. But hey! I was used to being a ‘superwoman’ so I burnt the midnight oil, barely managing to do it all, but reached there somehow … gasping for air… in the process disturbing my work- life balance (was there one?) and piling on the coffee mugs and cream puffs. Fifty kilograms and four years later I was questioning the purpose of being an entrepreneur and was seriously contemplating returning to the corporate life with a steady income. The regular ‘menial’ stuff was bogging me down to an extent that the cons far outweighed the pros. My husband encouraged me to give it my best shot till the time I was completely sure I wanted to change track. His support gave me the courage to keep going.
This is when I was introduced to Her Entrepreneurship Network (HEN), a group for women entrepreneurs in India. The idea was to collaborate and together build a strong women’s network where we help each other grow. I was hooked from the first meeting onwards. It was heartening to see that there were others with the same story, some I could actually help with my own experiences and many others I could look up to for guidance and inspiration. We attended and enriched our knowledge in a lot of group session with industry professionals.
After a point though, all of us felt the need for individual mentorship. We needed more knowledge on various aspects of running a business but did not have the time to attend a full time course or take out the money from our business to pay for a course. Personally, I had already invested all my savings and more into the business. I knew I could reach the next level if only I had the right guidance. At this stage in my business I could not afford a trial and error method. This constant worry was making me take fewer and fewer risks and I was ending up playing safe and losing the edginess and fresh, innovative ideas that my firm offered and was known for. Again, once we put the wish out there, the universe answered. We were introduced to the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Mentoring Programme.
The systematic, diplomatic and focused way in which the forms were made for us to apply as mentees ensured we extracted the maximum benefit out of this programme. A specific need was answered. I was then matched with my mentor, Emma Gervasio, a Senior Account Director at Google, and she was a godsend for me! I was pleasantly surprised when we were matched …her profile and past experience was a perfect fit for the role of a mentor for my business. We hit it off in the initial couple of emails and the first Skype chat we had lasted for four hours! She encouraged me to talk, to let it all out, and I was so surprised that I had so much to say! After the first session I felt really good, like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. I felt that I had someone who could just listen to my professional issues without being judgmental. Through the entire volley of words, she helped me identify the pain points in my business and encouraged me to think and come up with solutions while guiding me towards the best solutions for my company and educating me on the international best practices.
Through the one year mentorship process, I put together a structure for my organization, effectively developed a strong second line of command with my employees, created a business plan, refined my client pitches and contracts and also sorted out sticky human resources practices that I wanted to avoid. My mentor helped me with not just the focus key areas but also a lot of other general practices that helped me raise my business to the next level.
Now that I look back upon the process, I realized it is not just the physical processes that the mentorship helped me understand and form, but also the emotional aspect of the business which very seldom people realize takes more out of you, for example, making the tough calls, even though logically it makes sense for the business. Entrepreneurs have a tough time separating emotionally from the task at hand. You need to be ‘ok’ and make your peace with the fact that you need to make the tough calls and have made them.
While there were several entrepreneurship programs that offered me reading material and downloads for my business, I was never convinced or never had the time to take it up. I was too busy trying to keep my head above the water. What really impressed me was the entire ‘givers gain’ philosophy of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Mentoring Programme. Not only did they provide expertise that helped me take my business to the next level, they did it without asking me anything in return. I do know they have earned a lot of goodwill from thousands of women entrepreneurs from across the world-including this one!
This entire experience makes me want to do more and give more to other entrepreneurs who I can possibly help. The programme has done so much for me and I can only imagine all the other good it would do for women across the globe.
‘Successful’ can be a very daunting state to be in. It can be fleeting at times. If you want to make sure that it stays that way, then plan for success. Don’t leave it to chance. The best way to do that is to have a mentor. I would advise other women entrepreneurs to look for a mentor after being in business for at least a year. If you still have the hunger to succeed, then you should be willing to open up your mind to new learnings. Once you know you want to ‘succeed’ identify your pain points and look for a relevant mentor who will be willing to spend that time on your business and help you reach the next level. Take up one challenge at a time.