How To Start Your Own Business. Part 2 - Finding A Business Mentor
Tips For Finding And Working With A Business Mentor
A mentor is someone who has been there before (think about entrepreneurs and TV personalities like Tim Gunn, Gordon Ramsay or Donald Trump). They are experienced, successful, and can provide much appreciated advice and guidance.
How Do You Find A Mentor?
Well, here are a few options:
- Government-Sponsored Mentor Organizations
You might be surprised, but the government offers a great deal of free resources, including Small Business Assistance and Training and Mentoring services to support small business owners, both online and locally.
One organization in particular' SCORE 'provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners nationwide via its network of more than 12,400 retired business executives, leaders and volunteers.
Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE volunteers share their expertise through in-person and online counseling. Be prepared to deal with several experts if you need end-to-end business advice. SCORE specialists are just that, they often have a specific area of expertise (HR, business planning, etc.) and while your primary counselor will be your main point of contact, they can help identify and introduce you to other specialists.
Other government-sponsored sources of counseling and mentoring include, Small Business Development Centers, Women's Business Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers, U.S. Export Assistance Centers, and Minority Business Development Centers.
- Trade Associations
Many trade associations operate mentor-protégé programs that provide guidance to help you build your business. These mentoring programs are often conducted through a combination of formal one-on-one'mentoring session' and group networking and discussion opportunities with fellow protégés. Business owners might be connected with several different mentors over a period of several months to gain a more rounded experience.
MicroMentor.org is a free business mentor service for entrepreneurs and a rewarding volunteer opportunity for business professionals. Their mission is to help small businesses grow faster, generate more revenue, and employ more people. They make it easy to find a mentor, be a mentor, and build a business.
- Tap Into Your Network
One of the best ways to find a mentor who knows your industry, your community, and comes with a great referral is to use your network.
Whether you have admired a business owner from afar, or know someone in your previous employment that you respect and value for their business insight - you have nothing to lose in approaching and asking these individuals if they would consider being your mentor. In all likelihood, they will be flattered.
Be prepared and explain why you chose them, what your goals are, and what you hope to learn from them. If they agree, you can then discuss the time commitment.
Working With A Mentor
If you decide to work with a mentoring organization, ensure there is a formal mentor-protégé structure in place. If you work with an individual, you’ll need to establish a mutually beneficial, structured relationship. Remember these tips about mentoring:
- Be organized, prepared and consistent. Make sure you are respectful of your mentor’s time.
- Do not expect your mentor to run your business for you or make decisions for you. You should have realistic expectations about what a mentor can provide you.
- Plan your mentoring sessions in advance. These could be as simple as having a one-on-one meeting once a month to discuss business goals, obstacles and regulatory requirements that you don’t understand.
- Take notes, create action items and be prepared to review progress during your next session.
- Thank your mentor for his or her time and assistance. After-all, they are taking time out of their busy schedule to help you.
Excited to find and connect with a business mentor? Fabulous! Look out for my next post: Part 3 - Understand Your Market.
This is the second in a series of articles on How To Start Your Own Business.