Finding Your Business Mentor
You can learn so much from a mentor, whether you're just starting your entrepreneurial journey, or you've been building your business for several years. Imagine having someone to turn to when the stresses of entrepreneurship get to you. Or having someone who can help you avoid common pitfalls.
In a survey of more than 11,000 small businesses by Sage, 93 percent of small and medium-sized businesses say mentoring can help them succeed. However, only 28 percent are using business mentors.
Finding a mentor early in your entrepreneurial career may mean the difference between success and failure. Here's how to embrace the idea of mentoring and take your business to the next level.
1. Open new opportunities.
Finding the right mentor opens new opportunities for you. An experienced professional has connections from their time in the industry. They can introduce you to people who will take your business to a new level. These people have resources and contacts you can't find alone without years of effort.
It would be best to have a mentor who isn't your competition. Ideally, they are retired without family in the industry. Otherwise, look for someone in a related field who doesn't compete, such as an Indian fusion restaurant offering advice to a local Italian eatery.
2. Work with a SCORE mentor.
SCORE is the largest national organization of volunteer mentors. In 2022, SCORE volunteers provided more than 4.65 million hours of expertise, resulting in the creation of 30,453 new small businesses and 112,570 jobs in the U.S. economy.
To find a SCORE mentor, you can use your ZIP code to find someone near you. Or try SCORE's Mentor Matchmaker to find your ideal match by answering a few questions about your business needs. SCORE's mentor program is free.
3. Avoid common pitfalls.
A mentor helps you avoid common pitfalls in starting and running a business. People with experience understand the mistakes they made and can help you avoid them.
You may want to tap into advice from more than one mentor and across multiple fields. For example, seek one mentor for financial advice, another for customer service feedback, and one for information on handling supply chain issues.
4. Develop new skills.
Anyone can call themselves a mentor, but the best ones teach you how to complete new tasks. It would be best to leave every meeting feeling like you've learned something new. Look for someone who knows more than you do about multiple topics. They should be the smartest person in the room.
In addition to SCORE, you can also try your local chamber of commerce, university professors and professional organizations related to your industry.
5. Embrace the sounding board.
Having someone who truly listens and understands your concerns as a business owner is crucial. You can vent to your best friend or mom, but they don't fully grasp the trials of running a company. A mentor has gone where you have before and knows the list of potential solutions.
Keep in mind that your relationship with a mentor may change as your business does. Perhaps you'll work with a subject matter expert for a short time. Or, you may have a mentor who supports you throughout your business journey--from planning to launch and then through the successful growth or sale of your company. Think of mentors as part of your advisory team who can be there to offer guidance whenever and however long you may need them.
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.