At some point in the process of developing and growing your business, you may undoubtedly face the need for a mentor. . . someone to advise you on business decisions, hopefully having learned from their own previous experiences.
In a study conducted by UPS, a staggering 88 percent of business owners claim that having a mentor is crucial. The study also found that 70 percent of small businesses who use mentors survive more than five years, which is double the rate for non-mentored businesses. Simply put, if you want to double your chance of success, use a mentor.
Just how exactly do you go about finding your very own “Master Yoda”? With January being National Mentor Month, it’s a perfect time to discuss how to go about choosing the perfect mentor for you. Below, I suggest 4 steps in finding the perfect mentor:
Know what you want. Prior to seeking out a mentor, clarify what you would like from them. Write it down if necessary. Maybe you want someone who is a good listener, or has financial expertise, or someone who is an expert marketer. Finding someone who possesses all the qualities you want will be rare, near impossible. Learn to compromise, but seek out someone who will help you fulfill those specific areas that you have identified a need for. Above all, find someone who is open, honest and willing to answer any questions you have.
Network Daily. You may already have someone in mind for a business mentor--it could be a friend, a family member, or a business associate. Outside your immediate network, however, you come across potential mentors everyday. Ask them questions. What do they do? How have they found success? What makes them tick and do they enjoy what they do? Keep in mind, a mentor doesn’t need to be in your specific line of work to be a good match for you. Knowing that will broaden your potential list of candidates. And don’t be surprised if your mentor finds you instead of the other way around. It has been known to happen so be ready for anything.
Set up a meeting. Once you’ve identified a potential mentor (or two or three), offer to buy them lunch, or meet to discuss further questions you have for him/her. Be flexible in exactly how and when you meet. Work with their schedules. Once you’ve met with candidates, go back to your lists of needs and expectations and decide who will potentially help your business the most. Avoid asking them “Will you be my mentor?”. Instead, suggest meeting regularly, perhaps every quarter, to further discuss what he/she does and explain how they could be a great resource to you.
Get Specific. Be clear with your mentor, explaining your commitment to him/her and your expectations of him/her. Also be specific on how often to meet, how long the meetings will last, and any topics you hope to cover. It’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule your meetings so that you can both put them on your calendars. A good mentoring relationship shouldn’t cost a thing, only time.
Scooter Braun, founder of School Boy Records, stated the following about mentors:
“Being a mentor is about just believing in somebody and caring enough to share your knowledge. My mentors don’t necessarily have the answer to everything, but what they can do is to share wisdom and experiences. When I meet someone that I want to be my mentor, I just want them to tell me stories. I just want to sit with them and soak up as much history from their lives as I can. There is this richness in history and the wisdom that comes from experience that trumps any kind of smarts.
To me, that’s what mentorship is: drawing from that wisdom. When someone who is 25 is asking me questions now at 34, that’s what they are asking for. They aren’t asking me to just tell them exactly what to do. They are asking me to care enough to give them the proper story for what they are looking for in their life at that time. Because that’s exactly what I ask for. I tell my mentors exactly what’s going on with me and I ask, ‘Is there anything in your life that you can draw from to help me?’ They’ve been there. I want to learn from the mistakes of the past. I want to learn from the successes.”
If you still need additional resources to help you find the right mentor, Entrepreneur suggests the following resources: (add to or replace any below)
SCORE.org: A nonprofit association of more than 13,000 volunteer counselors who individually mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It also offers training, advice, workshops and resources dedicated to entrepreneur education.
MicroMentor.org: An initiative of nonprofit humanitarian agency Mercy Corps that offers free online guidance to entrepreneurs, particularly those with low incomes and limited access to business resources, and connects them with a business mentor.
EMSociety.org: Los Angeles-based nonprofit Entrepreneur Mentor Society selects 40 to 45 aspiring entrepreneur applicants each semester from the greater L.A. area to educate, develop and promote them through one-on-one mentorship, networking events, internship opportunities and sessions with successful business owners.
SBA.gov: Ever the small-business resource, the Small Business Administration's Mentor-Protégé program serves firms eligible for its 8(a) Business Development program, an initiative to help socially and economically disadvantaged Americans gain access to economic opportunity.
VA.gov/osdbu: Late last year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched its Mentor-Protégé Program to pair mentoring firms with small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans and other veteran-owned small businesses to create long-term relationships and provide business assistance.
Let me Know: Who was/is your mentor and how did you go about finding them?