If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This of course does not mean you can’t find someone to help you. Many entrepreneurs have more ideas than time. A protege is someone who can help you execute more of your ideas in exchange for learning.
A protege isn’t your partner, they certainly aren’t your friend. A protege is not even your employee. A protege is someone who you mentor. As an experienced entrepreneur, you will show your protege the ropes, while handing off tasks of increasing importance to them.
A protege offers fresh ideas and new insights. They will be eager to complete tasks and will allow you to test new ideas. While sweeping the shop floors might be asking too much, your protege will be at your side for as much of your day as you want. The more you have going on, the more your protege will learn, and closer they will be to running a business unit or going off on their own.
How To Find One
I wasn’t afraid to make phone calls as I kid. I would call local businesses to point out errors and provide feedback. At 14 the owner of one of the only internet providers at the time offered me a job. It was through him that I was exposed to millionaires and billionaires, and where I found my mentor.
I wanted to make money and was willing to do whatever I had to. My mentor and I got along like friends. I agreed to work for him for a flat $500 a week – whether we were traveling or working long hours.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”Benjamin Franklin
I had that arrangement for a few years. I learned what I was good at, how I contribute to the success of an idea, and I built up confidence by making some decisions of my own.
I learned how to negotiate, how to deliver bad news, and how to live the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. I traveled, I took care of personal business for my mentor, and I didn’t really complain – even when I outgrew him. Without having that experience, I wouldn’t have been able to have had the career I have had. A protege has a lot to learn from experienced entrepreneurs.
A protege needs to be someone who you can be friendly with. Let people around you know what you are looking for, or you can always post on Linkedin, someone will take an interest. Keep in mind you will be taking someone under your wing, this is not something you should offer to someone undeserving.
What You Should Offer
You are teaching entrepreneurship through apprenticeship. The goal is to have the protege take over some of your existing duties or perhaps take on new ones. You want to eventually feel confident enough to let them hire, or manage a business segment.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
The end goal is to either send them on their way with the skills to succeed or more importantly, manage a business unit for you. If they are managing something new it makes sense to give them some “skin” in the game. It’s also important to pay a base wage that is realistic in your market. An internship is free, an employee is going to cost you $500 a week at least.
There should be bonuses along the way if money is made. The base wage is low, so any additional funds will help them. If the business unit grows rapidly and you start making new money, consider wage increase with a bonus, or pay them a cut. You want them to have the incentive to stick around.
What You Should Expect
Your protege will not come fully programmed. I was very experienced with technology, and naturally was able to sell, but conflict management and money management were new to me. This motivated me to learn on my own and soon I became the expert.
It’s important to take care of your protege. If not, it’s possible for them to burn out. It’s very common for employees of any sort to see the revenue you are making, and think they deserve a cut. It’s important to reinforce boundaries – it is your business – you are simply hiring a “number two” who you will compensate fairly, with the promise of running a business unit or helping them set up their own business at some point.
Finding a protege takes time. It’s also a huge commitment. Having someone around constantly can be draining. You may opt for a more flexible schedule or a casual part-time arrangement. If you have someone full time it’s important that you have enough work that you can delegate to someone. Adding personal assistant to the list of duties isn’t unreasonable, but to avoid conflict in your working relationship – it may be a good idea to keep it separate.
Most entrepreneurs can point to at least one mentor in their lives. Playing the role of mentor to someone genuinely interested in you can be a valuable experience. It can provide the foundation for a relationship that lasts their entire career.