6 Ways to Find a Mentor to Help Your Business SucceedWhether you're just starting out or you're ready to take your business to new heights, a mentor can help guide the way.
Running your own business can be seriously overwhelming. With so much at stake, small business owners could reap numerous benefits by seeking the guidance of a mentor.
Not only will you gain access to advice from an experienced entrepreneur and an unbiased sounding board to test new ideas, you may be more likely to see long-term success. According to MicroMentor, a social network that allows entrepreneurs and volunteer business mentors to connect, mentored businesses increased their revenue by 83 percent while non-mentored businesses increased their revenue by 16 percent.
In addition to reviewing ideas and strategies, “The mentor can provide unemotional recommendations,” said Kathy McShane, who founded Ladies Launch Club and has helped more than 350 women launch or expand their businesses.
You can benefit from the mentor’s ability to “help rank and prioritize the issues, calm the emotional approach and give an alternative and often a more long-term view of the positioning of the business, or of its strengths and weaknesses,” said Martine Liautaud, founder of the Women Business Mentoring Initiative and author of “Breaking Through: Stories and Best Practices From Companies That Help Women Leaders Succeed.”
Plus, you get access to a network of valuable contacts, according to Rai Chowdhary, a business coach with more than 20 years of experience.
Where do you need help?
Before you approach a potential advisor, consider areas you need help with.
“The first move is to think about the reasons why you need a mentor,” said Liautaud. “What are the main difficulties or issues you encounter at this stage of your entrepreneurial path?”
Jotting down a list of the problems you face will structure the first few meetings with your mentor.
What’s in it for them?
The benefits of this special relationship are not one-sided.
“Mentors gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction watching small business owners grow and succeed,” said McShane. “Most people I mentor are younger, so when I get a chance to see things from their point of view, I learn from them. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Don’t feel guilty about asking someone you admire to provide guidance as you grow your company.
6 Ways to find a mentor
It’s not always easy finding a reliable person you can trust to help guide your business, but there are many places to begin.
- Ask directly. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a mentor,” said McShane. “Talk to people you’re impressed with and ask if they are interested. Even if they say no, it’s a sure bet they will know someone to connect you to.”
- Network with investors. “Investors and angels are a valuable resource for mentors since they have wide networks and are constantly in touch with who has done what [in] the entrepreneurial world,” said Chowdhary. “They also have unique knowledge and insight into which individuals have been successful in what fields. Thus they can quickly identify suitable individuals that would be a good fit as mentors for your organization.”
- Try SCORE. “There are many retired executives who like to mentor people on [SCORE], and it’s free,” said McShane. “Just make sure you’re pretty specific about the type of person you want. SCORE will help pair you with a person with the right experience in those areas.”
- Connect with universities. The alumni services departments at your alma mater may have a mentorship program in place. But you can also seek guidance from experts at local educational institutions you’ve never attended. “You can reach out to instructors at universities and community college to seek mentorship,” said McShane. “I’m an adjunct professor at New York University and we love to teach and help people develop.”
- Join a Meetup group. “Since Meetup groups are organized by function, you can quickly identify the right ones that fit your areas of need,” said Chowdhary. “Then you can open the door to reaching the right candidates via networking through the individuals in such groups. Meetups are spread all across the country, and if your city does not have one, you can find suitable ones from other cities and link up with them.”
- Join a trade/industry association. “[Members of] trade and industry associations typically have a certain level of accomplishment in their field, and also a wide network in their field,” said Chowdhary.
Building a successful relationship
Finding the right mentor can take some trial and error, so don’t get discouraged if the first attempt doesn’t work out. Liautaud said there must be synergy between the mentor and mentee.
“The mentee must not hide anything from the mentor. Everything must be on the table. Of course, the mentee must be willing to learn and to benefit from the mentor’s help,” she said. “On the other hand, the mentor must be involved in the mentoring process and be available and accessible to the mentee in every circumstance.”
Make sure these key aspects are in place for a successful, long-term arrangement.