Finding a mentor


We all need a little help occasionally, especially entrepreneurs and small businesses who are facing a tough economic climate in addition to all the usual hurdles.

Small, new and growing companies can get ahead of the game by seeking out a mentor to offer them advice, guidance and all-important industry insights.

We take a look at why a mentor is so advantageous and how you can find one.

What is a mentor?

Mentors can be trusted confidantes providing an empathetic ear, a comforting shoulder to cry on and a source of impartial, unbiased advice and backing. They have widespread business experience, usually specialising in one area, such as marketing or finance. They can generate networking opportunities with their wealth of contacts and grow business relationships. You can bounce ideas off them. They can also help you: grow sales and profits; cultivate leadership skills; access finance; develop business plan cycles; and provide outside views on you and your company, offering constructive feedback. If your company is enjoying a growth spurt or has been declined finance, a mentor can back you through this and on to the next level.

How do I find the right mentor?

There are many entrepreneur groups, business angel and seed capital networks from which to seek expert advisers and mentors.  Mentors Me is Britain’s first online gateway for small and medium-sized enterprises looking for mentoring services. It has something for every life stage of your business throughout the UK. This service provides access to 115 organisations offering 27,000 free or paid-for reputable mentors across the country. These organisations include the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, the UK’s first institute dedicated to enterprise learning.

Alternatively, you may meet the perfect mentor at a networking event or you may wish to ask someone you used to work closely with. Don’t be shy to approach people; it’s a compliment after all!

How do I use a mentor?

How much contact and what sort of contact you have with a business mentor, plus how long the relationship lasts is down to you. Whether you want to keep in touch by email, over the phone, through Skype or face-to-face, the choice is yours. It is highly recommended to get it straight in your mind before approaching a mentor what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship. You should be open enough to be able to explain where you feel your weaknesses lie and what you hope they could offer you. Remember that mentors are not party to your business’s financial talks. This differentiates them from stakeholders or board members. Entrepreneurs have to distinguish between the mentor’s ability to provide managerial or strategic advice from financial, legal or other paid-for professional services.

Do they work?

Whether you’re a start-up, growing, established or succession planning, most companies need a helping hand. Seven in 10 small businesses that get mentoring survive for at least five years. This is double the rate for non-mentored entrepreneurs. Coffee Nation founder Martyn Dawes, who used mentors and went on to sell the business for £23 million in 2008, told “There is no shame in asking for help. Most entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know. Experience is having faced the same or similar situations before and that’s something no entrepreneur can have too much of on their team.”

Posted by the Secret Businessman