Maybe it was a teacher, coach or co-worker, but if you were fortunate enough to have a mentor sometime in your life, you understand the benefit of another person’s willingness to share wisdom gained from experience. In business, having a good mentor helps you identify your strengths, as well as prepare you to meet challenges with a plan for success.
The Small Business Administration has, for many years, promoted business-mentoring services and offers this definition. “What is a mentor? A mentor is someone who has been down the same path you’re taking. He or she is experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance — for no real personal gain.”
Research has shown that small businesses with mentors not only have more success early on, but also achieve longevity compared to other similar competitors. Mentors provide a level of expertise, which can benefit family-owned and operated ventures, as well as established businesses looking to expand.
Depending on your individual situation, you may consider having a mentor to work with you individually as a business owner/manager, or help you develop strategies for specific business segments. Either way, mentors expect you to be open and clear in your expectations about the relationship. They will ask you what you are trying to achieve and what elements will help you along the way?
Mentorships work best when you agree to meet on a regular basis for a set period of time and plan action items you wish to accomplish. Be willing to share specific information about your business and respect your mentor’s time. The better prepared you are for each mentoring session, the more you will gain from the experience.
Your mentor acts as a guide, but does not make business decisions for you. You are still in charge of operating your business, but with the advantage of having an experienced person offering advice and assistance.
Mentoring programs exist through government programs like the Small Business Administration, local Chambers of Commerce programs, business school outreach sessions and trade associations. Many farm agencies offer educational and mentoring programs specifically tailored to financial and marketing assistance. There are also many private consultants and business mentoring programs available either in person or online. When considering using a mentor, look for someone you will be comfortable working and sharing information with. A mentor with a background in your type of business operation is especially important, too.
Mentors provide a valuable level of experience and expertise that can propel your business forward. It is a two-way street with give and take where you seek guidance and are willing to work together to achieve certain objectives or develop strategic plans for the future. Working with a mentor requires some time and planning on your part, but the outcome can prove beneficial for you and your business.