Starting a business can be difficult. There is a considerable learning curve associated with starting a new venture or entering a new industry. Getting advice and guidance from someone with proven business success can help you launch or expand your business. Mentors can often be a key element in your business success.
Why You Need a Mentor
A mentor is more than someone who is more experienced than you. A mentor can help you grow both personally and professionally. While you don’t necessarily need a mentor to thrive in your business, there are many good reasons to have one.
If you are starting a new business, a mentor can be your sounding board, helping you clarify the direction you’d like to take your business. He can assist you with developing a business plan and figuring out the organizational structure for your venture. He can also give you some valuable tips on what works and what doesn’t from his own experiences.
Mentors can add value, no matter what your stage of business. They offer a level of support you may not get from other people, especially peers who are competing for the same business. Having someone in your corner, cheering you on and encouraging you to succeed can be just the boost you need to succeed in your business.
A mentor should also help you make connections with accomplished people in your industry, or in complementary businesses. Strategic introductions can open a lot of doors, granting you access to influential people you may not have otherwise known.
What to Look for in a Mentor
For the most relevant guidance and connection opportunities, look for a successful person well-established in the field you are entering or expanding into. Your mentor must be someone who knows what it takes to get a business launched, grow a customer base, fine-tune a marketing plan and hire the right people.
Your mentor must also have the time to meet or chat with you regularly. Since you’ll be getting together often, you need to make sure you and your mentor are compatible.
How to Find a Mentor
Where do you find a mentor who has the characteristics you’re looking for? Start by asking your family and friends for recommendations. You can also search your social media connections. Approaching someone you are familiar with can alleviate some of the awkwardness you may feel.
If you’re unable to find a mentor through your own connections, the best way to locate one is through networking. Go to industry events, attend a training conference or reach out to your college alumni association. Find an organization that is specific to your field or a local chamber of commerce. Contact the members to inquire about mentorships.
You may find a mentor using SCORE, a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. SCORE offers free mentoring services to small-business owners. Through SCORE, you connect with a local mentor who can help you start a new business or grow your company.
Finding a mentor can be time-consuming. Interview candidates and when you find a good match, don’t be intimidated to ask her to be your mentor. Chances are, she will be happy to help you achieve success in your business.
Leslie Bloom has worked in upper-level management positions in both publishing and the mental health field. In addition to years of business and management experience, she has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications, including Metro Magazine. She holds degrees in both journalism and law.