If you’re a new entrepreneur, a lot of people may have already suggested that you find a mentor. It’s good advice. A good mentor can help you navigate the hurdles that new business owners often face. Now you find yourself in a new dilemma, how to find business mentors in the first place?
You might feel that it’s easier said than done. Perhaps you’re apprehensive about approaching successful business owners because you think they won’t have time to spare for a newbie or you don’t have an extensive alumni network to tap into. Don’t let that hold you back, though, as there are other ways to find a great mentor that can help you through this journey.
What Is a Business Mentor?
A business mentor is simply somebody who has the depth of experience that you don’t right now. They would have overcome many challenges on their path to success, with each challenge imparting a valuable lesson. The benefit of a mentorship relationship is that you can become inspired by their success and learn from their mistakes.
They would likely have had a mentor themselves at some stage, so they would have an appreciation for this relationship. Their advice will prove to be valuable as you navigate challenging situations when establishing and growing the business. The right mentor will be an advisor, teacher, and friend who’s rooting for your success.
Why Should You Have Business Mentors?
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get caught up in hubris and feel that they’ll be able to figure everything out on their own. There’s no harm in asking for help and learning from successful business owners in the industry. The advantages of having a business mentor include:
1. Guidance and Expertise
By having a business mentor in your corner, you can avoid making costly mistakes and put yourself in a better position to scale rapidly. Remember, these people have gone through the process you’re only just starting. Maybe you underestimate the challenges that lie ahead or are unable to envision the problems that may arise as you scale.
Those who have done it all will be able to offer insight and guidance based on their failures and successes. Wouldn’t it be better to avoid going through a costly phase of trial and error yourself, simply by relying on the expertise of those who’ve achieved success in the industry?
2. Networking Opportunities
The mentor’s sphere of influence can be very beneficial for your business. As their mentee, you’ll be able to access their network, which will likely include many other successful people from different walks of life.
Once your mentor makes an introduction, this network can become a valuable source of opportunities, enabling you to forge new partnerships, reach more investors, and even gain new customers.
3. Personal and Professional Growth
Mentors can provide some much-needed perspective when you’re struggling to clear a hurdle. They can nudge you to consider alternatives, broaden your perspective as you deal with challenges, and encourage you to reevaluate your approach.
True growth happens outside the comfort zone and new entrepreneurs are often unwilling to go beyond it, thereby missing out on lucrative opportunities in the process. A mentor will likely be able to identify those opportunities and help you step out of your comfort zone to achieve greater success.
13 Places to Find Business Mentors
Now that you realize the importance of having one, it’s time you figured out how to find business mentors. There are several different ways that you can go about this, including by considering people in your social circle who’ve had considerable success in business.
Listed below are a few places that you can explore to find a business mentor:
1. Personal Network
Much like charity, mentorship also begins at home. Ask people in your immediate family who are successful entrepreneurs to become your mentor. You can also expand this search to your circle of friends and even friends of friends. Once someone has made an introduction, just make sure that what you’re doing is compelling enough for them to take an interest in taking you on as their mentee.
2. Meetups and Networking Events
Industry-specific networking events and conferences are great for meeting experienced professionals. These events always bring together an eclectic mix of people. Keep an eye out for such events in your industry so that you can network with high achievers who may be willing to take you under their wing.
3. Local Business Organizations
As a small business owner, you’ll also find local business organizations such as chambers of commerce or small business associations to be quite helpful. They’re primarily set up to support emerging entrepreneurs. Experienced business leaders are known to extend their assistance through such organizations. Find your local organization and head down there for a chat, they’ll point you in the right direction.
4. Social Media Platforms
A mentor can be on the other side of the planet yet still provide valuable guidance, and you don’t even need to be in the same hemisphere as them. Look for established entrepreneurs in your field on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter where they’ll likely be sharing their insights anyway. You can sort through the posts using hashtags to tailor your search.
Joining industry-specific groups on social networks is also a great way to connect with these individuals.
5. Industry-Specific Forums
Don’t sleep on online forums or discussion boards. They bring together some of the most passionate and experienced individuals who are more than willing to impart valuable lessons to budding entrepreneurs. Search for forums specific to your industry so that you can engage with experienced professionals, regardless of wherever they may be located in the world.
6. Alumni Network
Most higher education institutions have a thriving alumni network with people always willing to lend a helping hand to others from their alma mater. Reach out to the classmates that have achieved great success or those that graduated years before you and went on to do big things. They’ll be happy to hear from you and will most likely take you under their wing.
7. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
The local Small Business Development Center in your area can also be a great resource. Backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, these organizations provide entrepreneurs with valuable advice on business planning, financial management, operational efficiency, and more. While slightly different from the conventional mentor relationship, this is another great way to get the help you need.
8. Volunteer Organizations
Working with volunteer organizations is a great way to make new connections. You’ll interact with other professionals who are passionate about helping others and giving back to the community. This will be a learning experience on its own and will even help improve the reputation of your business.
9. SCORE Mentors
SCORE is an online platform that brings together experienced small business mentors with new entrepreneurs. These volunteer mentors sign up to provide lessons from their real-world experience to newcomers in the industry. You can also ask for a free in-person meeting with your score mentor to nurture that connection into a beneficial partnership.
10. Startup Incubator or Accelerator
Startup incubators and accelerators operate for the sole reason of helping new businesses grow. They’re usually backed by a panel of highly successful mentors that generously impart their wisdom and knowledge.
You can search for incubators and accelerators in your area to find the one that fits your business needs the best. Most will have some entry requirements and may only admit a certain number of businesses each year.
11. Mastermind Group
Think of mastermind groups as a platform to bring together your peers. It’s a group of people who’re on the same journey, some are just more up ahead on the road than others. This ongoing support group of like-minded individuals can share lessons and experiences regularly, helping their peers evolve and grow with them.
12. Professional Coaches
In some cases, a strictly mentor-mentee relationship might not be enough to help you out. Your professional needs might be unique enough that they require specialized assistance. If that fits the bill, consider hiring a professional business coach who has highly tailored skills for your industry and can leverage them to deliver the sort of guidance you require.
13. Cold Outreach
It’s not uncommon for some of the most successful business leaders to share knowledge with those who reach out to them, even if they don’t know who they are. If there are professionals that you admire and look up to, take the plunge into cold outreach. Send them an email or interact with them over social media. Ask them if they’d be willing to mentor you or just provide you with guidance from time to time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many will be happy to step up.
What Qualities Should You Look for in a Business Mentor?
How do you differentiate between someone who’s a genuine business mentor and a snake oil salesman? There’s no shortage of the latter online, people who’ve never run a successful business but have expensive entrepreneurship courses to sell you. Avoid them by evaluating potential mentors based on the following qualities:
1. Has Experience in Your Industry
If your mentor doesn’t have experience in your industry, there’s only so much they can teach you. Remember, you want a mentor so that you can learn what to expect as you grow in your industry.
While other successful business leaders may provide good general advice, they won’t have any specific knowledge to share. In that case, a mentoring session with them won’t provide you with enough value. Look for people who are highly accomplished in your field and learn from them.
2. Possesses Strong Communication Skills
A great mentor needs to be a good listener as well. Their communication skills shouldn’t just revolve around the ability to speak well. If you don’t feel heard or it seems that your questions and concerns are disregarded, then one-sided communication isn’t going to serve you.
Look for mentors who have strong communication skills and are happy to listen to you so that they can guide you in the best possible way.
3. Demonstrates Willingness to Share Knowledge
Some successful business owners have a habit of gatekeeping. They’re not willing to share their knowledge with others because they feel it would be counterproductive to their business goals. A mentor who thinks like that will be of no use to you. Make sure that the person you choose as your mentor is ready and willing to share their knowledge.
4. Has a Track Record of Success
You obviously want to learn from someone who has done it all and has achieved success. Your mentor should have a clear track record of being successful in this industry. This will give you the confidence that what they’re sharing with you is valuable and that you can use it to scale your business to new heights.
It’s Only a Matter of Time Before the Mentee Becomes the Mentor
All mentors were once mentees themselves. The help they received early on sparks in them the desire to be just as helpful to others once they become successful. After you become successful in your industry, be sure to give back to the community and take aspiring business owners under your wing so that they can achieve success as well.
In addition to good mentorship, you also need prudent financial management if your business is to thrive. That’s why when you use Doola bookkeeping, you have the peace of mind that with its efficient bookkeeping services, you’re in the prime position for long-term success.
How often should you meet with your business mentor?
There’s no rule but you should aim to meet your mentor for at least one hour per month, if not more, for at least one year. That should be enough time to help you through most challenges, but if your specific situation requires it, you can request more time.
What can you expect from a business-mentorship relationship?
You can expect to receive knowledge from the business-mentorship relationship that helps you avoid the trials and tribulations of scaling the business. By relying on their expertise you can avoid making some costly mistakes in the course of business.
How long does a business-mentorship relationship typically last?
It depends on the mentor that you’re working with and the sort of time commitment they’re able to make. Most mentorship relationships will generally last from several months to a year or more.
Can business mentors provide funding for your business?
Business mentors will typically not provide funding for your business but they may introduce you to their network that will likely include investors looking out for new investment opportunities.
What if your mentor’s advice conflicts with your ideas?
It’s not uncommon for a mentor’s advice to conflict with your ideas. That’s fine, just be respectful of their opinions even if they don’t reconcile with yours, and compare their advice with what you believe in so that you can make an informed decision.