We all see successful entrepreneurs making a better world and living a meaningful life.
But we barely see how they rely on a successful mentoring in achieving phenomenally results and business growth.
In a survey of its clients, mentorship consultancy MicroMentor found that 83% of mentored businesses survived two years, compared to 74% of nonmentored businesses.
Mentored businesses were more likely to launch, and had greater revenue increases than those without a mentor.
A mentor can be crucial in staying ahead of the market, and sometimes, out of bankruptcy.
“Mentors are valuable because there is really no reason not to learn from the experience of others,” says Bob Godlasky, a SCORE mentor with the Orange County, California.
They are a unique breed of individuals who want to fuel and give back to the business community.
We’re talking about business owners who have been there and done that, that are willing to share real-world best practices, and help you avoid pitfalls.
On the contrary, the reality clearly indicates that a business mentor is the key ingredient in business growth that you can’t afford to miss.
Most of the time, especially when you’re starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know. A mentor with experience in your industry can be an invaluable benefit when you are faced with challenges you have never faced before.
Mentoring gives your small business an edge.
Obviously, the presence of an engaged mentor doesn’t guarantee growth. But it’s much more difficult to achieve significant growth without a mentor by your side, especially in a competitive environment.
A Successful Mentoring Relationship
When you consciously and deliberately seek out a mentor, you must look for someone who genuinely cares about you as a person, and who really wants you to be successful in your venture or your career.
The right mentor believes in your idea and your goals. He will actively listen to your ideas and work with you to make those ideas a reality.
This process naturally builds a personal relationship with your mentor, the kind of relationship that evolves over time.
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Some of us may expect someone to hold our hand through each step of the process of starting a business, but others may just want a spark of inspiration, or a key piece of information that will start them down the right path.
From the very beginning, you should be clear about your business goals and what type of mentor relationship you’re looking for. Then progressively, the relationship you will establish with your mentor has to align your business goals with its outcomes.
Start by making a list of people you respect in your industry; it can be local connections or big shots you follow on social media.
Then, come up with a personal way to make contact (introduce yourself at an event or send an email, a short letter, or a thoughtful gift). The key is here, persistence.
Some key traits we must look for in our future mentors are that they are open-minded, encouraging, good listeners and have a wealth of experience to bring to the table.
Actually, there are several things you can expect to receive from a mentoring relationship:
Every entrepreneur has their own strengths and weaknesses. But, more valuable is to have someone who can give advice in areas where you’re struggling.
Advice from mentors based on years of experience may help you avoid some of the mistakes they have already made, and keep you headed in the right direction when you hit obstacles.
Also, if you’re stalling on your startup until you get everything perfect, a mentor can give you the push you need to get you from the “notes on a legal pad” stage to reality.
And if you’ve got so many things on your “to-do list” that you’re spinning like a hamster in a wheel, a mentor can help you prioritize and plan your day-to-day action steps.
Expect a mentor to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
Constructive feedback and criticism are expected from a good mentorship, and accepting that input can pay dividends.
A mentor may view your business from a completely different perspective than you. Be fully open to their ideas and try to understand their view.
It’s important to be able to see your business from multiple viewpoints.
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Your emotional attachment to the business can cloud your judgment. Your mentor can bring an overall perspective that can help you make better decisions for business growth.
The unconditional support is great, but sometimes you also need to hear the cold, hard truth so you don’t start down the wrong path or waste your efforts.
It’s amazing what we can’t see until someone with no particular bias reviews the same picture or the same data.
Finding a good mentor can be a catalyst for your belief in yourself.
It is also an important way to expand your network, because a mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.
Most experienced mentors are happy to make their networks available to the people they mentor (partners, vendors or even prospective customers).
A mentor with a good reputation can also teach you the value of building business relationships, a great skill he has already mastered over many years in business.
To make the most of the mentoring relationship, you don’t need someone who simply agrees with everything you say.
Instead, you need someone who will challenge your decision-making and hold you accountable for following through on actions that will grow the business.
“The role of the mentor is to make you reflect, not to give you advice or answers. Helping you ask the right questions–that’s real mentorship,” explains Marten Mickos, CEO of HackerOne.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely career choice and you can easily lack someone you can confide in when the going gets tough.
Your mentor can offer insights that senior employees or family members can’t, because they’ve walked in your shoes and they’re invested in you.
The most successful mentorships are the ones that are a two-way experience where both sides benefit from the relationship.
The best mentoring relationships don’t cost a thing, except time!
Being successful is a busy business, so use his or her time well.
The best approach is to ask for small focused blocks of time, maybe just ten minutes, in private, and be prepared with real issues to discuss.
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But, there’s always something you can give in return. It can be whatever you feel like you can give back with your expertise.
Not every business can use just one mentor. And not every mentor can necessarily benefit your business.
You must assess your goals and your progress, and if you’re not happy with the results, don’t limit yourself to only one mentor.
Different people can provide different value at different times throughout your career.
A mentor can be anyone you feel you can learn from, and who has time to spend with you on a regular basis helping you improve your business.
And the only way to know is to try them out.
Someday, you may be asked to mentor another small business owner and when that day arrives, be generous with your time and remember how important your mentor was in helping grow your business.
So, are you ready for a successful mentoring?