For entrepreneurs, turning their idea into their own business is the ultimate goal, but it doesn’t always come easy. There are many challenges to be faced and decisions to be made and sometimes we may not feel as though we are equipped to handle them on our own.
But we needn’t go it alone. Many of us turn to a mentor to guide us through the choppy waters of entrepreneurship.
Mentors come in all shapes and forms, but essentially it is someone who can offer you coaching and advice based on their knowledge and experience. This advice could be on any number of business issues, such as strategy, marketing or finance, or your mentor can simply be your confidante when you need a listening ear after a tough week.
I have been very fortunate to find a number of mentors in a variety of places. I have formal mentors in the form of a Business Gateway Advisor, who always points me in the right direction when I need some specific information or contacts, and a Princes Trust Mentor who is a moral support as I ride the rollercoaster that is business start-up!
I have also found mentors in my clients and business colleagues, who have been phenomenally supportive and generous with their advice, knowledge and input when I have faced challenges in growing my business. It’s always good to talk to someone who has been there and done it!
I have joined groups and subscribed to programs that bring together like-minded people who mentor each other, like the Female Entrepreneur Association. And I have sought guidance from leaders in my industry, like Michelle Dale of Virtual Miss Friday.
Not forgetting, of course, that sometimes you need to lean on someone who definitely hasn’t been there and done it, and that’s when your friends and family are so important. They see your daily struggles and will help you gain clarity when you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Before you go looking for a mentor it is a good idea to clarify exactly what you want. Write down your specific expectations and the role you want your mentor to play in your business. Do you want someone who is experienced in a certain field? Do you want advice and guidance on how to become a successful entrepreneur? Do you simply want to have someone there as a sounding board for important decisions? Determining what you want from your mentor will help you to look in the right places to find the perfect person for you and your business.
So where should you look for your perfect mentor?
This is a great way to get to know other entrepreneurs and business owners which, over time, may lead to possible mentorship. If you aren’t a member of a networking group yet, find your nearest one and get down there to start building your contacts.
Speak with your business contacts to see if they know anyone who would make a good mentor for you. Put the word out that you are looking for a mentor and ask your friends and social media contacts too.
There are a variety of organised mentorship schemes out there that have a vested interest in seeing small businesses survive and thrive. Try your local Chamber of Commerce, Business Gateway or trade body. Or perhaps if you are in the third sector or a minority group, there may be a specific charitable or public-funded scheme that you would be eligible to join.
There are many websites available now that offer to either be or find your perfect mentor online, for a fee. This may mean that you will be connecting with your mentor through Skype or other social platform, rather than in person. However, this can still be the basis for a very effective mentoring partnership.
Family and friends
Sometimes the best mentors are right under your nose! Maybe you don’t even call them mentors, but that’s what they are, if they are helping you navigate the ups and downs of running a business. Whether they can help from a business perspective or an emotional one, you know they have your best interests at heart.
Mentoring is integral to the success of any young business. Benefiting from the experience, insights and advice of others who have established successful businesses or who can offer emotional support can only aid your future success and help you shape your business the way you want it to be.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find them? Are you still looking? Share your experience in the comments!