There’s no way around it: running a small business and being responsible for the livelihood of the wonderful souls who joined you for the journey can be exhausting, stressful and overwhelming. Even if your business is performing well, oftentimes being an owner or leader can be a lonely title. So, where do you go to bounce ideas, strategize or decompress? Networking can help a little but for a true confidante, if you haven’t already done so, you should get a mentor. A mentor is someone who can provide guidance and be a sounding board for you based on the knowledge and experiences that he or she has accumulated.
We get it: it sounds noble and inspiring to tell the tale of how you found success dragging yourself up by your own bootstraps, proving the naysayers wrong and taking the industry by storm. In truth, what really holds us back from asking for help is our pride and fear of appearing weak. Well, here are some benefits of having a business mentor that we hope will encourage you to seek the guidance of a seasoned professional:
- Fresh Eyes: A mentor can provide a different perspective for your operations and ideas. Our businesses are our babies. As parents, we often get so caught up in the wonder we created that we overlook or ignore our babies’ tantrums and issues that are growing pains. A mentor, from the outside, looking in, can help us identify those issues, provide clarity and work out the kinks.
- Hold You Accountable: Between electronic devices, social media and the 501 ideas running in our heads, we can sometimes become distracted and lose focus. A mentor can help keep you on track by holding you accountable to the deadlines and strategies you said were important to you. Your mentor is not meant to be a “yes” person in your world so clashes can occur. Understand that he or she has your best intentions at heart and take their gentle nudges and constructive criticism in stride.
- Improve the Likelihood of Success: Most successful businessmen credit having a mentor as the key ingredient to their success. Hundreds of thousands of businesses are started each year. According to the Small Business Administration, 20% of these new businesses will fail in their first year and half of them will fail within five years. A UPS Store survey found that 70% of businesses that were mentored survive five or more years. Also, a recent study showed that small business owners who receive three or more hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased growth.
- Provide Networking Opportunities: He or she can connect you with key people in and out of your industry who can help your business grow. Your mentor’s network by extension can become your network, there to provide support, potential clients, new partners and even new employees.
- Develop or Strengthen Skills: From time management and bookkeeping to human resources and vendor relations – your mentor’s experience can help you develop the skills needed to successfully run your business. Even if you have these skills, learning from a seasoned professional can provide new insight to bolster what you already know. He or she can also teach you how to navigate the market, address competitors or expand into new areas.
Now that we understand the make or break the importance of a mentor, you may ask where does one find such a person? One great place to start is the U.S. Small Business Administration. They work with a number of organizations to “counsel, mentor, and train small businesses”. Partners working in the Women’s Business Center, Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and Veteran’s Business Outreach Center are at the ready to provide you the support and guidance you need. To find a local partner or center, visit the SBA at https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance.
Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” We encourage you to find a mentor who can help you navigate these often-choppy entrepreneurial waters so that you too can become a successful and seasoned business owner. And when you have found success, remember that sharing is caring; pay it forward and become a mentor yourself.