Business mentors: why do I need one?
What is a business mentor?
Once you launch into your own business, there’s no boss to turn to for advice or direction when you’re facing a challenge or feeling stuck. You may not yet have anyone else in your team yet – you’re probably flying solo, but you don’t have to be. Everybody needs a good reliable sounding board, a second opinion, and sometimes just emotional support when the times get tough (which they will). That’s where a business mentor comes in.
A business mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you (they’ve “been there done that”). They serve as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time. When it is a good fit and works well, the business mentor and mentee form a trusted, long-term relationship.
Your mentor doesn’t need to have experience in your particular industry. They don’t have to be up on the latest trends or technology—you’ve got other sources for that. Your mentor’s role is to share with you lessons from their experience in the hope that you can learn them quickly and easily.
How does a business mentor help?
Your mentor has no ulterior motive. That combined with their experience creates a good foundation for trust. And as the relationship develops over time, that trust can grow even stronger. Also, your time with them becomes more and more efficient as they become more and more familiar with you and your business.
A mentor works with you to help you grow your business.
We all have blind spots: a business mentor helps you identify those and equips you to work with your weaknesses and maximise your strengths.
A mentor supports you in decision-making.
One of the most obvious benefits of having a business mentor is that you can learn from their previous mistakes and successes.
Your mentor, being an experienced businessperson, is likely to have an extensive network and can offer you access to far more senior decision-makers than you currently have. And they will be far more willing to open that network up to you than a casual acquaintance from a networking meeting. They maximise your opportunities to leverage key relationships.
Last, but not least, your mentor sees the bigger picture: that’s invaluable when you are involved in the nitty gritty of running a business.
What qualities should I look for in a business mentor?
- Approachability, availability, and the ability to listen
- Someone who “gets you”, who you feel comfortable with.
- Honesty: A mentor should always be truthful, even if it stings a little. If you’re looking for someone to give you a gold star just because you’re trying, you have the wrong idea about what mentoring is. A straight-shooting mentor will be more beneficial in the long run than someone who is constantly praising you. You should still feel they are on your side.
- Ability to give feedback: A good mentor is willing to provide concrete and constructive feedback; otherwise, he or she will be doing you a disservice. As your career advances and you encounter more challenges, use that feedback as a building block.
- Discretion: For the mentorship to succeed, there must be a certain level of discretion and trust. If a mentor is someone from your own company, he or she must be able to keep confidences; otherwise, major rifts may occur between employees; managers may be rubbed up the wrong way. Mentees need to feel that they can talk to their mentor about any challenge they’re facing, without fears of repercussion.
What does a business mentor expect from their mentee?
- Honesty in return.
- Openness to listen to advice: a good business mentor’s advice is based on years of experience. Sometimes it may not be what you want to hear, and that is okay. Be open and non-reactive.
As you can see, the rewards are potentially great in having a business mentor.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding a good mentor. Every entrepreneur should have one.