Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While learning from experience is a huge part of building a successful business, nothing replaces the guidance of someone who has been there before. Mentors can help small business owners discover the confidence and knowledge to stay competitive and grow in the business world.
In addition to providing a support system, mentors can help you take your ventures to the next level by giving meaningful ‘been there, done that’ advice. Here are four reasons why every entrepreneur should have a mentor:
A mentor can help you at all stages of your career
There are no restrictions to having a mentor. You can have as many as you want, choose where they come from and decide the role you want them to play in your business. Early in your career, you might need a mentor who can help you gain your footing and establish your brand. Later, you might look for a mentor who can offer advice on how to scale your business.
Finding a mentor who fits your needs is crucial to your continued growth regardless of where you are in your career. There are various resources available to help you find your perfect mentor, including people you may know, LinkedIn, trade associations or SCORE, an organization dedicated to helping individuals start, run and grow their own businesses.
Mentorship relationships are created to fit your needs
A mentor’s role is to help you stay on track as your business grows. Therefore, it is important to establish a meeting frequency that works for both you and your mentor and will help you reach your business goals. If you prefer structure, schedule meetings with an agenda and work towards defined milestones. If you choose to maintain a more informal relationship with your mentor, see what you can learn about his or her success and apply some of the same strategies to your own business.
In addition to personal business mentors, there are also formal mentorship programs that target specific industries or business ventures you may want to pursue. One example is the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Mentor-Protégé program. The Mentor-Protégé program is designed to pave a path towards success by strengthening and enhancing the capabilities of the protégé. Mentors provide technical, managerial, financial and other guidance that helps businesses become competitive and prepare to effectively bid for government contracts.
Great mentors teach you ‘how to fish’
What do some of the most successful business owners of our time have in common? They all had mentors when first starting out in their careers. Great mentors not only share their own wisdom but also give their mentees the tools to help them succeed on their own. Anyone can do the work for you – great mentors will teach you “how to fish” and teach you how to do the work yourself.
When I first entered the small business government contracting sector, I did everything wrong. I was under the impression that if I used the “shotgun approach” marketing technique, I would sit back and wait for the contract orders to come in, but it didn’t happen! Instead, I learned how to leverage the SBA’s certifications to gain a competitive edge from an experienced and successful small business government contractor.
Mentors help you think differently
As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in your own ideas and forget to take a step back to look at the big picture. A mentor is someone who will help look at your business objectively and bring a fresh perspective to the table. They will be there to bounce ideas off and provide honest and impartial feedback.
Ready to find your mentor? Focus on finding one who believes in you and your capabilities. So whether formally or informally, jump on the mentorship bandwagon and find the type of mentorship that works best for you and your business. And don’t forget — one day in the future when you’re more experienced, pay it forward and mentor other businesses.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the president of Government Business Solutions (GBS) and the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting.