Monday, June 8, 2009

How To Find A Small Business Mentor

It is always worth having a business mentor.

A good mentor will see your business in the context of the life you want to lead .... and work with you to clarify the direction of your business.

They are also there to help you work through the stream of problems, issues, and challenges that naturally come as a result of being in business.

It is all to easy to get caught up in the day to day operations of your business .... and neglect the growth of your business as its own entity. A mentor brings you back to focus on development.

The analogy that I like to make is with kids and sports.
If there is a team .... and all they do is play the game against opponents .... the team may improve some. But not nearly as much as it will if there is a coach putting together practices, working on skill development and strategies.

A good coach or mentor will effectively challenge the players and draw out their best performance over both the short & long term.

Finding a good mentor is always interesting.

There are lots of people who think that they can do it. But often they don't have a systematic approach or they just consistently push their own agenda and ideas.

You have to talk with a few prospects until you find one that is interested in you, the future of your business, and can articulate what their role in the process is. If you find that ..... you've got a good one.

As far as finding the right person goes - this does depend on your goals. However, I would recommend that you ask for a free intro session to check if the fit is right for you, and I would ask about their approach. There are vast differences in style - some coaches do "colour by numbers" where you have to fit into their systems and processes, and others are much more flexible and focused on fixing challenges and helping the client achieve their goals by providing the 'how-to' knowledge that is so often missing.

Mentors often offer a lot less structure and are good for bouncing ideas around. All of these styles can work very effectively - it depends on your personal preferences regarding how you work best!

A good place to start thinking about what you want out of the relationship is an article on "50 things a mentor or coach can do for you" You'll find it at - see the Ultimate Small Business Coach Checklist article

One option is an organization called SCORE that provides assistance to businesses. The mentors are retired business executives from all walks of life and all types of industries. This non-profit is part of the SBA and is free. For starters you might try to contact someone there for help.

Here's a link for more information: SCORE

Mentorship is extremely important! It can absolutely save you and your business countless headaches as you move forward.

I'd caution you to be very careful about who you choose as a mentor. They need to be able to teach and guide you in areas that you need to get stronger in.

Unlike a coach, a mentor has already traveled the road that you are attempting to travel. They can teach you where the greatest obstacles are and show you what to watch out for. They can help you understand exactly how to pace yourself, judge your performance, and help you set up the proper interim steps along your success journey.

They best way to pick them is to interview their former or current protege. They'll give you the kind of straight talk that you'll understand and enjoy.

Finally, be prepared to offer something of value to your mentor. I'm sure that you have some skill or talent that the mentor can put to use for his/her benefit. This will keep them from feeling like they are wasting their time with you.

Oh! Don't forget to perform well! Your mentors reputation is at stake as well if you fail.