Mentoring -- advising entrepreneurs and small businesses -- is different from consulting. The mentor advises you but doesn't make the final decision and is not responsible for implementing any recommendations. Mentoring programs are available free, at low cost or from consulting services on a paid basis. Finding the right mentor may give your small business just the boost it needs to become more successful.
SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring services to small businesses and entrepreneurs on a no-fee or low-cost basis. SCORE is supported by the Small Business Administration. Other free or low-cost mentoring services include the Small Business Development Centers, as well as state- and city-supported business development offices, such as the Arizona Small Business Association. Often chambers of commerce provide classes, seminars and consulting services. The presenters and participants in nonprofit mentoring programs do so to generate paid consulting work, as well as to give back to the community. While nonprofit mentoring programs don't make a profit, they do make money through government funds, membership fees and corporate sponsorship.
Internal mentoring programs funded by resources within a business make money by attaining the goals set for the program. The mentoring program is developed and directed by members of your management team. The mentoring program you implement in your own business may pay for itself. For example, employees who call in sick cost the business money; the employees are paid even though no work is completed. A mentoring program with a goal of decreasing sick days may focus on efforts employees can make to improve their health through diet, exercise and stress reduction. Other mentoring programs could be aimed at increasing sales, improving employee retention and helping employees acquire new skills.
The for-profit mentor charges you an hourly fee for his services. The fee and number of hours are agreed to in advance. The mentor's program might be through phone calls or live chat every Tuesday and Friday for one hour or through weekly lunch meetings. Another alternative requires your company to buy a certain numbers of hours a month and then to use the hours at your discretion whenever the mentor is available. Choose the program that fits in best with your business schedule.
Internet marketing is an industry where membership-mentoring programs are prevalent. The mentor provides you with access to workbooks, seminars, conference calls, forums and one-on-one mentoring sessions. The mentoring sessions may be included in the program or be in addition to a membership monthly fee paid to access the program. If one-on-one sessions are included, the number of members who seek one-on-one support is important. It may be difficult for you to schedule your mentoring time when it's convenient to you in a large mentoring organization.