Business mentors can play an important role in your business, especially in the early stages when you may appreciate more guidance on difficult decisions, overcoming new challenges and ensuring continued growth. Here are three important ways a mentor can contribute as you grow your new business.
1. Offering Advice and Guidance
An ideal mentor is someone who is experienced and successful in your industry. He or she will be able to provide a wealth of information in areas such as management, marketing and financial counseling, to name a few. Certain mentors might also be able to provide specialized assistance in areas such as technology or manufacturing, depending on your business needs.
You can work with multiple mentors for support. However, it is important to note that mentors provide counseling and insight, and they should not make decisions about your business for you. It is up to you to take the information and guidance that is provided by the mentor, appropriately apply it to the situation and make the final choice.
2. Helping to Identify and Overcome Business Challenges
New businesses often face many challenges, and a mentor can help you overcome them. A mentor can help identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that contribute to the health of your business. That is crucial, because not every small business owner has the experience to identify critical factors that could affect their business in the long term.
Further, your mentor can play devil's advocate and ask you challenging questions about your business that you might not have considered. Being challenged in a risk-free, constructive environment will help your long-term business strategy and make you a more capable decision maker. As the Journal of Accountancy writes, "A mentor's job is to foster one-to-one relationships that challenge people to rise to higher levels of competence and responsibility."
3. Network, Network, Network
Last but not least, business mentors can also help you network. This will help you gather more information and potentially additional outside assistance to call on if you need it. You may even find an investor or two! No matter how amazing your mentor is, it can't hurt to solicit guidance from multiple sources.
Where to Find a Mentor
A good place to start is your own personal network. Do you know someone who has been in your market longer than you have, but wouldn't consider your business direct competition? That individual could be a perfect mentor, if they have time and a willingness to help.
If you can't think of anyone you know personally, the government provides online and in-person support for American small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers some suggestions for finding and working with small business mentors. Additionally, many trade associations offer mentor-protégé programs.
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