Small business owners invest a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into getting their organizations up and running. And while some will eventually succeed without the help of a mentor, having one or more experienced guides by your side can give you an enormous advantage. From insightful advice to moral support, mentors are prepared to share their wisdom with you on an ongoing basis.
As energetic risk-takers, many entrepreneurs are too impatient, too busy, or too proud to ask established business leaders for help. Others may simply be skeptical that the mentor/mentee relationship offers anything of practical value. Either way, the substantial benefits a mentor brings to the table often go undervalued, or worse, overlooked.
What a Good Mentor Can Do for Your Business
A good mentor is one who helps you avoid the snare of self-doubt, while unleashing your full business potential. They’re the leader you look up to - the sounding board for your ideas. And they often look something like this:
- they’ve already had success as an entrepreneur,
- they possess the specific expertise you lack,
- they deliver practical advice that’s direct but supportive,
- they’re patient, proactive, and inclined to pay it forward
Mentoring can impact your business in very tangible ways. In fact, research conducted by one volunteer organization found that entrepreneurs using their mentoring services increased revenues by an average of 106% - compared with only 14% by those who did not receive mentoring.
Here are some of the lesser known ways that a good business mentor can help your venture succeed:
1. Those who’ve yet to learn by doing often find themselves at a disadvantage in business. You can buy a lot of assets as an entrepreneur, but hands-on experience isn’t one of them. Becoming a mentee means you’ll not only benefit from finding out what led to your mentor’s success, you’ll get to learn from their mistakes as well. And that’s the next-best-thing to having been there yourself.
2. Entrepreneurs are often forced to handle a wide range of responsibilities – especially when their business is new. But wearing too many hats after a certain point in your company’s development can actually hinder your success. The objective view that a mentor takes of your business allows them to see both where you could be struggling, and where you might benefit from the decision to delegate, hire, or outsource.
3. If you’re not committed to your business, there’s every good chance it will fail. Being accountable to somebody else is one of the most effective ways to keep your performance on track. It’s also one of the most overlooked benefits of engaging with a mentor on a regular basis. Not only can mentors guide the design and development of your business plan, they’re on hand to ensure you make consistent progress toward your short- and long-term goals.
4. It’s a well-documented fact that emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) is an important indicator of professional success. But in many cases, this ability to recognize and express emotions appropriately must be learned over time. Given their level of business achievement, mentors can play a valuable role in encouraging the development of EQ in others. Remember, the best - and most profitable - business decisions are the ones made when underlying emotions are kept in perspective.
5. Mentors are a great networking resource. As someone who’s already established themselves within a commercial environment, a mentor can put you in touch directly with individuals and companies that might be of help to your business. In fact, the more effort you make to find mentors inside your own industry, the more relevant their contacts will be.
6. There’s no exaggeration in the claim that a mentor can prove essential to business success. Yes, many entrepreneurs do manage to struggle along without any guidance, but it can take a toll in extra time and wasted resources. Finding a good mentor is really an investment in your company. In fact, research suggests that small business owners who take advantage of mentor/mentee relationships are twice as likely to survive the crucial first five years than their non-mentored colleagues!
Even with seasoned guidance, the road to entrepreneurial success can be littered with setbacks and failures. Many of us don’t deal well with falling short of our own expectations - and that may be the best reason of all to seek out a reliable mentor.
As cliché as it sounds, mentors have been there and done that. They have first-hand experience with both the ups AND the downs of getting a successful business off the ground. And that puts them in the ideal position to help you navigate entrepreneurial obstacles, and overcome unexpected defeats.