As a small business owner, having a dedicated mentor by your side can give you a huge commercial advantage. Business mentors are experienced and committed individuals whose role includes providing valuable professional advice, as well as the moral support and encouragement that’s necessary to keep a business owner focused on what’s most important to the success of their enterprise.
But beyond their proven motivational abilities that come from having been where you currently are, mentors can also be key players in the growth of your company, particularly in terms of its networking efforts. The fact is that the seasoned advice of a professional advisor can go a long way toward guiding the success of both your short-term and your long-term business goals.
What Should I Look For in a Mentor?
Business mentors generally do what they do because of a desire to give back to the start-up community that they’re part of. Their supportive role often revolves around the problem-solving that goes hand-in-hand with navigating their mentee’s next business challenge.
But whether they’re professionals in marketing, finance and bookkeeping, legal, or leadership, those who choose to mentor tend to be dedicated, caring, and genuinely interested in sharing the skills and knowledge that can contribute directly to the entrepreneurial success of others. Some of the best mentors are successful business owners themselves, and because of this, they have a practical understanding of just what it takes to stay focused and persistent over time.
Many organized mentoring programs require that their professional advisors have experience equal to a minimum number of years in an entrepreneurial or people management role, and that they’re ready and able to commit a set number of hours each month, over a prescribed period of time. Business mentors are generally in it for the long haul, and that means that as a small business owner, you get to benefit from a long-term foundation built on confidence and trust.
The Benefits are Mutual
Both mentors and mentees stand to gain a great deal from their symbiotic relationship. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you can expect to benefit from what can only be described as priceless, real-world business advice. Expert advisors can help with:
- Shortening your professional learning curve
- Expanding your company’s business network
- Promoting your professional confidence
- Identifying opportunities and risks
- Defining a business vision and advising on strategic planning
- Contributing the insight and perspective that’s gained from experience
Not only do mentees get to learn from what their advisors did right along the way, they also get to learn from what those seasoned professionals did wrong.
Some business owners are initially skeptical about the concept of mentoring because they’re unaware of just how a mentor stands to benefit from what’s frequently a volunteer situation. Advantages for mentors are both practical and altruistic, and include:
- Contributing positively to their community’s economy
- Enhancing their professional image and reputation
- Increasing their own networking reach
- Gaining a valuable, advisory skill set
- Making a significant difference in the lives of fellow entrepreneurs
Accountability is Key
One of the biggest advantages of enlisting the aid of a business mentor is the positive effect that’s attached to being accountable to someone. From a psychological perspective, we tend to perform our best when we’re held to higher standards, and the typical mentoring/mentee relationship can instill an effective and practical sense of responsibility in both parties.
The greater the level of professional respect that evolves between a business advisor and business owner over time, the stronger the mutual desire becomes to willingly account for one’s actions in terms of both learning, and of making, monitoring, and measuring progress toward business goals and milestones.
Let’s face it, whether it’s marriage or mentoring, communication is one of the foundations of a successful relationship. Bouncing ideas back and forth, and offering ongoing support and feedback is an integral part of the mentor/mentee partnership. The sharing of ideas and expertise, and the willingness to be accountable for whatever springs from those inspired discussions, is what ultimately leads to a positive and potentially lucrative experience for everyone involved.