Many people start out in business without a mentor, and many do very well. With sufficient training behind them, and the core skills needed to run a business successfully, they manage to survive in business without the support of another.
But then there are those people who struggle in business, especially during those critical first few months. While they can source information online, they can find the running of a business difficult without the experienced help of another. This is where a business mentor comes in handy, although even proficient startup business owners can benefit from a mentor too.
A business mentor is somebody who has been working in business for a long time. They often offer themselves up to new startup owners, as they are keen to share the skills and pieces of knowledge that they have learned. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Apple’s Steve Jobs, for example, and Jobs himself was mentored by a guy called Mike Markkula, who was an executive at Apple. When such luminaries benefit from a mentor at the beginning of their careers, it is clear that other startup owners can benefit too.
The Benefits Of A Business Mentor
The benefits of a business mentor are many and include the following.
#1: They can offer help in getting started
A business mentor can help the startup owner at the planning stage, with tips on using a business plan template, and advice on such things as taxes and raising capital. They can draw on their experiences and best practices, and give the startup owner all the advice needed on getting their business off the ground.
#2: With their help, there is a reduced chance of business failure
Unfortunately, many startups fail within their first year. There are a number of reasons for this, including poor financial management, the lack of an effective marketing strategy, and a lack of commitment on behalf of the startup owner. This is where a business mentor can be important. They can spot the early warning signs of startup failure and put the startup owner back on the right path. They can explain where things are wrong, give advice on where improvements can be made, and suggest strategies that the startup owner might not be aware of. With this experienced help, the chances of business failure can be reduced, so this is an excellent reason why anybody in business should consider the help of a mentor.
#3: They can share knowledge based on real-world experiences
To learn more about business, would-be entrepreneurs can go to business school, attend workshops, and read ‘how-to’ books. Much can be learned by doing so, but sometimes, there can be no replacement for real-world experience. A mentor might share some of the truths about running a business that can’t be found on the page. They might share personal stories that offer deeper insights into how to run a business effectively. They might also share mistakes they have made, and the startup owner can learn from these on their own business journey. A mentor has ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ and is a vital source of information.
#4: They can offer encouragement when it is needed
Running a business is tough and this is something many of us can agree on. There are days when we might feel like giving up, and there are other days when we might struggle to know who to turn to for help. Again, this is where a business mentor can come in handy. They can be there when we need encouragement. With a listening ear and some sound advice, a mentor can support us right when we need it the most. For the startup owner, when everything is new and challenging, this help can be invaluable. Having somebody to offload to can be crucial, and having a cheerleader on side to spur them on can be just as useful.
#5: They have access to a range of helpful contacts
As business owners, we all need to rely on the services of others from time to time. Be it an accountant, an IT firm, or a marketing whizkid, we can achieve much in business if we rely on the skills of talented professionals. But who are these people? And where do we find them? While we can easily find somebody to outsource to online, we are often left with this one question: Are we outsourcing to the right people?
A mentor will have built up a range of contacts during their years in business. They will know which firms are worth approaching and they will know which firms to avoid. They might also have close connections with the best firms, and so might be able to get the startup owners special discounts and privileges.
#6: They can provide training
There is much to learn in business, from managing a team to balancing a budget. While training can be gained from skills-based courses, the startup owner can also benefit from the help a mentor can provide. With somebody on their side who will have picked up a lot of important skills already, they will be able to learn some of the skills that are needed to manage their own business. This will certainly be cheaper than signing up for a course, and it will give the startup owner the head start they need to excel in business.
#7: They can be a source of inspiration
We have already established that running a business can be tough, and for the startup owner, the future could look bleak. They might look at the startup failure statistics that can be found online, and begin to feel discouraged about their own chances. They might also see businesses close around them, and come to the conclusion that their business might be next! Thankfully, failure doesn’t have to rear its ugly head. And because the mentor will be somebody who has succeeded in business, the startup owner will have somebody to look up to. They will see that it is possible to make it in business, and with the experiences that can be shared by the mentor, they will know how to go about doing so.
How To Find A Business Mentor
So, we have advocated the benefits of a business mentor, but how can you find such a person? Well, there are a number of things you can do.
For one, you might want to attend business networking events. Talk to as many people as you can and you might get to meet somebody willing to mentor you.
LinkedIn and Twitter are two places online where business mentors can be found, as they are both excellent platforms for connecting with people in a range of different industries.
Check online for information on the Small Business Development Centers in your area too, as information can often be found there on business professionals who are available to mentor others.
Of course, you might already know people in business who may be willing to help you, so use your own contacts if you have any.
These are just some of the ways to find a business mentor but check online for other sources with a Google search, with a specific search for people in your personal area.
The benefits of a business mentor are many, especially if you are just starting out in business. Consider finding somebody in your area if you feel you need the extra help and support, and benefit from the skills and experiences that they should be able to offer you.