Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes, but many of the successful ones have a special thing in common: A business mentor that helped the business owner turn their dream into a reality. Thanks to their own firsthand experience, business mentors can provide invaluable tips for your professional and personal life, so you can see how these connections can play a key role on the path to your success. What are you waiting for? Follow these four steps and make the most of a business mentorship:
1. Start from the beginning
Think of your mentor(s) as a must-have in your initial business plan. Why? 88 percent of business owners with a mentor believe that having one around is invaluable.1 What’s more, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years, which is double the rate of non-mentored businesses.1 Through simple conversations, mentors can provide the hard-earned insights they’ve learned from their own experiences that many new business owners may lack.
While most entrepreneurs and new business owners may have the talent, skills and creative ideas to succeed with their business, a mentor can help answer the question, “What’s next?”
2. Look in the right places
It might take some trial and error to find a mentor with the right chemistry, but there are ways to find a mentor that fits your specific business needs. Start by searching online or asking your peers for how to get in contact with:
- Small business development centers
- Women’s business centers
- Minority business development centers
- Networking events and/or trade or professional associations
Don’t forget about your own personal network. Do you have a former manager, coworker, classmate or friend who is a business owner? Don’t be hesitant to reach out to them—drop them an email or connect on LinkedIn. A proactive approach goes a long way.
3. Expand the conversation beyond your business
Any mentor who has started a business can give you insight on what it's like to run the show. Not only can they provide advice about financial challenges, but they can also give you tips on how to manage your work/life balance. A mentor can suggest out-of-the box productivity ideas that will allow you to spend less time working. Mentors can help you find the backup you need, whether it comes through internal staff or external support, so you don’t feel guilty taking that family vacation. Sounds good, right?
4. Maximize your relationships (in and outside of the office)
Make it easy on your mentor by staying organized, prepared and consistent. Schedule time to meet with your mentor so it’s locked on both of your calendars—we all know how busy life can get. Before your meetings, prep and send an agenda of action items or questions to discuss.
By taking advice from people who have counseled other business owners or achieved success themselves (especially in your specific field), you’ll learn and understand what worked for them, what didn’t work and how it applies to your life. Down the road, you may just find yourself serving as a mentor to others.
1 “Why A Mentor is Key to Small Business Growth and Survival,” November 2014, U.S. Small Business Administration
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