Running a small business has never been easy, but the added complications due to COVID-19 have made it even more challenging. Organizations are being forced to pivot quickly and change their products and services or how they do business. A small business mentor can help. This article covers why you want to find one and how to do so.
A good business mentor is someone willing to share their experiences with you, provide advice when your business faces challenges, and support your development. As a Forbes columnist noted, “mentors wear many different hats, including coach, sounding board, advisor, cheerleader, devil’s advocate, trainer, public supporter, introducer, and more. For most mentors, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate positive behaviors that will help you reach success.”
Sounds good, right? Well, consider these specific advantages of finding a small business mentor. Then, we’ll share how to find someone who is available, experienced, and inspiring to mentor your business to the next level.
How a Small Business Mentor Helps
If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, you are probably thinking, “I don’t have the bandwidth to find a business mentor.” However, that response could be a sign a mentor is exactly what you need. After all, developing a relationship with a small business mentor brings many benefits.
#1 Mentored Businesses Last Longer
Small business owners who partner with mentors typically refer to the relationship as “invaluable.” In a UPS survey, 70 percent of small business owners that received mentoring survive for five years or more, double the rate of those who did not receive mentoring.
You’re determined to make your business work and realize your dream of profiting from your passion. Yet, it takes a lot of work, with your attention spread over so many different areas. Working with an expert who has been through this can help your motivation and smooth the path for your business success.
#2 You Don’t Have To Reinvent the Wheel
A small business mentor shares their experience to help you with tough business decisions. Having a mentor to turn to with questions and ask for advice—before you venture too far down a given path—can help you avoid wasted time, money, or other resources.
If you’re starting a new business, an entrepreneur mentor could save you from making costly mistakes or spinning your wheels unnecessarily. After all, if this is your first startup business, there will be many in and outs you don’t yet know. Instead of embarking up that steep learning curve on your own, they can point you in the direction of the right resources to prepare, pivot, or react more efficiently and effectively.
#3 They Lived It, So You Don’t Have To
You don’t have to limit yourself to a mentor with specific expertise in your particular niche business. The mentor relationship is a broader one offering you access to someone with more experience than you. They’ve been there and done that. Now, they can share their previous mistakes and successes with you to save you time and hardship along the way.
It can even help in some cases to select someone from another business area. You’ll get a fresh perspective and tap into know-how outside of your skillset.
#4 You Gain a Sounding Board You Can Trust
The longer you work with your small business mentor, the more value you’ll gain from the relationship. Your mentor will come to know your business better, so you can both be more efficient. Meanwhile, you’re developing a trust-based relationship with someone on the outside. You’ll have great resources right there in the thick of the day-to-day work with you. Your mentor, however, can bring a more objective perspective when it’s needed.
Help Finding Your Small Business Mentor
There are many ways to find a small business mentor. We’ll cover five common ones here.
#1 Score a Mentor With SCORE
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers free (and right now, remote) mentoring. Whether you’re starting or growing your business, you can simply enter your zip code on their site and fill out a request form for the local SCORE chapter to set you up with someone to share business advice. The organization provides access to 10,000 volunteer business experts experienced in all aspects and stages of business development.
#2 Work Your Network
Networking helps you keep up with industry trends and gain perspective. But it’s also an excellent way to meet and get to know important people for your business. Who do you know that could provide you with the business insights you need?
In addition to asking friends and family for referrals too, also look at your social network. LinkedIn is a great place to identify a possible small business mentor. It’s also beneficial that you’ll be able to see how you are connected to that person you’ve targeted for small business counseling.
#3 Attend Industry Events
OK, this can be harder to do during a global health pandemic. Nonetheless, you can still attend virtual meetups and industry panel presentations. Try to connect with new people. You don’t necessarily have to post a sign behind you on Zoom saying, “I’m in the market for a mentor.” Instead, be interested in others and their experiences and wait for a partnership opportunity to present itself organically.
#4 Participate in Incubators
If you’re a startup, especially in an entrepreneurial city, take advantage of hosted events that bring like-minded networkers together. Many times these are organized by collaborative working spaces as a marketing tool. You can build your network and make invaluable connections that could lead to your small business mentor attending an industry incubator.
Your local Small Business Development Center may also host events that can help you identify someone you want to ask to perform a business mentor’s role.
#5 Look Everywhere
There are no rules when it comes to finding your mentor. Think of the Karate Kid—the protagonist couldn’t predict the building maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi, would become his mentor.
You might encounter someone while volunteering. Or meet a stranger at the dog park or on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game. Maybe someone at a supply chain partner will be a good fit for the role. Ultimately, you need to be open-minded and patient.
Here are a few last pieces of advice on mentoring. Before reaching out to a small business mentor, take the time to sort out your business goals and objectives. This will help you find the right fit and focus on developing the right questions for your expert mentor.
Also, keep in mind the mentor’s reward is seeing you succeed. That can feel good. But that doesn’t mean they want to waste their time. Be focused. Be respectful. Be appreciative. Try to find ways to reciprocate. “Mentoring relationships work best when there is a give and take. Both parties should receive some value and mutual benefit.” Whatever you do, don’t take your mentor for granted!