There’s a general misconception that mentors are only of value to those seeking advice and information on careers guidance. In the circumstances it’s understandable as most of the articles and interviews you’re likely to read will focus exclusively on this. However, mentoring is much more than that: we’re all likely to need advice and guidance at some stage in our working careers whether we want to gain promotion in our current role or change jobs and embark on an entirely different career. In an ideal world we’d turn for guidance to someone who has relevant experience and understands the problems and difficulties we’re likely to face. This is particularly the case for budding entrepreneurs and start ups. If your goal in life is to start your own small business, then who better to turn to than someone who’s faced the challenges that you in time will probably face yourself? The question is how do you go about finding the right small business mentor? Where can you find one, and more importantly how can you determine whether the one you find is the right one for you? Well, hopefully the following points might help and set you on the right road to small business success.
Look for an entrepreneur who runs a successful small business
By far the best step for a budding entrepreneur is to get help from someone who is successfully running a small business. They will have already trodden the path you aspire to and will understand what difficulties lie ahead. It isn’t necessarily imperative that the mentor works in the same industry or sector that you’re looking to target. It’s more about general life experience. All small businesses face similar problems when starting from scratch. Successful small business mentors will have faced the challenges and successfully overcome them. They can help you to do the same.
Look for a mutual rapport
Understanding and mutual appreciation lies at the heart of every mentoring relationship. For a relationship to work successfully there needs to be a good rapport: it may well be that your small business mentor has a wonderful CV and years of experience, but if the rapport isn’t there the relationship is unlikely to be beneficial to either party. Mentees need to be able to communicate with mentors: similarly mentors should be able to talk candidly and not be afraid to ask serious questions about the business ambition and how it might be improved. If the relationship isn’t working, or feels like it is unlikely to succeed in the long term, then it’s worth looking for a new mentor. Real progress is rarely made without a good rapport and understanding.
Use as many mentors as you see fit
Choosing a business mentor is one of the most important things you can do when starting out, but the challenges you will face will change over time. Your original mentor may have been ideal for helping you to get the business up and running, but they may not be best placed when specific challenges crop up. There’s absolutely no reason why a mentee can’t have a number of mentors. In fact, it’s probably in your interest to seek out a number of additional mentors preferably with different experience and backgrounds to help you gain a rounded view of your business and where it is heading.