Running a business is undoubtedly an exciting journey; however, it can also be a lonely one especially for entrepreneurs embarking on the adventure solo. This may be your first foray into business; it may also be the case that you do not know of anyone else who has struck out on their own to build their own successful company. In this situation you may be able to benefit from mentoring. A mentorship programme allows you to develop your skills with an experienced professional, established in the world of business, providing invaluable support and showing you the ropes along the way.
What exactly is a mentor?
A mentor will not run your business for you, nor will they tell you what you should be doing in every given situation. Instead they will provide guidance, support, and be there as someone to run your ideas past or talk through any worries or concerns you may have. Having a mentor on board does not guarantee that your business will be a success; however, they will support your progress while allowing you remain in full control of your business and the direction it takes.
What type of person becomes a mentor?
The majority of mentors are experienced businessmen or women, who take on mentoring as a way to give back to the business community. These may be individuals who have already retired, or someone who is still very much involved in actively running a business, but who is happy to spare a few hours a month to support young entrepreneurs. These mentors usually offer these services free of charge, however, there are professional mentors who do this as a full time job; you will need to pay for these, although you will typically find the level of support in terms of the hours you spend with the mentor is greater in these situations.
What will a mentor do?
A good mentor will typically draw on their own experiences when giving you guidance, explaining the types of things that have and haven’t worked. While it always helps to seek out a mentor who has experience in the field or sector you are working in, any experienced business professional will have lessons which you can learn from. Whether this is their experience of seeking out finance, employing staff, or how they recovered from a financial loss or a job which went wrong, there is always something to learn. Regardless of the industry you are in, some challenges are universal, and it always helps to talk through these problems with someone who has experienced them and come out the other side.
Enlisting the help of a mentor is not the same as getting an investor on board; while an investor would typically have a say about the decisions and the direction of the company, a mentor adopts a much softer stance. As they have no financial investment in your company, the advice a mentor can give you is more impartial and may not always be what you want to hear. The advice they give you will not come with any agenda as they have nothing to gain by any decision you may make regarding your company. Instead, over time you should expect to build up a relationship with your mentor meaning they will take a vested interest in your business and will have a desire to see you succeed with your endeavour.
How do I find a mentor for my business?
There are various ways of finding a mentor who can help you with your business. However, before you start approaching anyone about taking on this role, you should ensure you are clear with yourself about the type of person you are looking for. It is unlikely you will be able to find a mentor who will be able to provide assistance with every area of your company; rather it is more likely your mentor will be highly specialised in one particularly area, such as marketing, production, or logistics. Once you know the area you would most benefit from further assistance, you can start to narrow down your search.
You should also consider your expectations of this individual. Knowing the type of support you would like will determine the best place to begin your search. If you are happy with an informal arrangement, consisting of irregular meetings on an ad hoc basis, you may be able to find a mentor through local networking events or through your existing connections. If you feel you would benefit from a more structured level of support, you may be better off considering established mentorship programmes such as:
When looking for a mentor, the following places are great starting points:
- The Prince’s Trust – This mentorship programme is aimed at individuals aged up to 30 years, and can be done either face to face or online. Support is given in the form of two-hour sessions which take place every week typically for three months.
- Mentorsme – This can be used by anyone regardless of their age of financial situation. You can connect with a potential mentor based on their skills and their sector they are most experienced in. This can be a great way of locating a mentor who matches up with your business interests and who can offer a valuable insight into the field you are operating within.
- Networking – You should also research local networking groups aimed at young and emerging professionals; some offer the chance of enrolling on a mentorship scheme to their members. This knowledge and experience on a local level can be hugely beneficial and can lead to a long-lasting connection.