The ability to “be your own boss” is often cited as one of the most attractive aspects of entrepreneurship, but it can also raise problems for those new to the craft. Who do you turn to when you get stuck? How do you handle areas of business you don’t have any experience in? In these instances, a mentor can be the difference between success and failure for a fledgling business.
In an era where instant gratification is expected, the benefits of a mentor can unfortunately be lost on many young entrepreneurs. We’ve become accustomed to reaching for our devices and tapping a few words into Google, expecting the answer to materialize in front of our eyes. However, there’s no substitute for experience.
Mentors have usually seen it all during their business careers, and can provide an invaluable sounding board for those dipping a toe into entrepreneurial waters. Sure, there’s an element of pride swallowing in admitting you need help, but the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson all credit their success to the role mentors played in their development.
Still not convinced? Below we list five tangible benefits you’ll enjoy from enlisting the help of a mentor.
If you have a simple business problem the answer is just a couple of clicks away. But what if the problem is a little more complex? A mentor can apply their real-world experience to provide answers that can’t be found in a text book, or online through a search engine. As anyone who has spent more than five minutes browsing a search result will also tell you, wildly inconsistent information is often the norm. Having a trusted, experienced mentor ensures you always have a reliable resource to turn to.
Not only does a mentor bring years of knowledge, they’ll usually boast extensive business contacts you can lean on. As a young entrepreneur, getting your foot in the door with senior executives or government officials can be difficult. A mentor’s ability to open these doors for you and your business is just as important as their business nous.
It’s often said the life of an entrepreneur is a lonely endeavour. Facing the consequences of your business setbacks can be a heavy load to bear if you try to do it alone. A mentor will help you keep your chin up in tough times, talking you through setbacks they faced, and how they surmounted their own roadblocks. They may also be able to guide you through your difficult patches in more tangible ways with business advice.
“A mentor relationship is about goal setting and action planning. A mentor should not be doing work for you. Set the expectations upfront, make it known what you need help with, and that your mentor has the skills or network to assist,” Dylan Hrycyshen, Business Advisor, Small Business BC.
A good mentor will keep you on track and focusing on your deliverables. As soon as you decide to establish the relationship together, set your goals, and how the mentor can assist you in reaching them.
A Stanford University executive coaching survey found 80 per cent of CEOs polled had received some form of mentorship. In another survey, Sage found 93% of small and medium sized business owners acknowledged mentorship is critical to success. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing a mentoring relationship. It’s been conclusively proven to help entrepreneurs succeed, so how do you go about finding one?
Finding the Right Mentor
“Don’t be afraid to ask for a mentor relationship”, said Dylan Hrycyshen, Business Advisor, Small Business BC.
“Put yourself in the right circles, be outgoing and join in a few community events, workshops or Meetup events. Try to meet someone organically who you get along with and has a skillset related to gaps in your business knowledge. Industry knowledge, marketing and sales skills are the areas entrepreneurs often need most help with.”