Thinking of starting a business, but not sure what you need to know? Begin your journey here with my basic guide to business start-ups. In my role as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have talked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs about what they really need to know, not what a business guru thinks they need to know. This series is the result. Today’s blog looks at another third party, but this time it’s one that many small business owners overlook at their own peril; business mentors.
There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know – until someone tells you! That’s what a mentor can bring to your business, with their professional experience acting on your behalf. From short term projects to longer relationships, a mentor’s role can be as simple as that of a critical friend who isn’t afraid to say the things you don’t want to hear. Or they could be your business’ guru with the knowhow and experience to catapult your dream into the big time.
Research has shown that SMEs that consult a business mentor are more likely to survive. You will seek this person’s input on some of the most important decisions you will make, so it’s important that you trust them and respect their opinion. Think of them as an advisor, who has already been where you want to go, so they can give you advice based on real experience. At worst, a mentor should prevent you from making costly mistakes; at best, they will highlight opportunities to grow your business.
Choose a mentor with a different skillset to your own, so that your range of experience compliments each other. There’s no point hiring an HR guru if you’ve led an HR department for 20 years. That way, if it doesn’t work out with that mentor, at least you will have learned some important lessons along the way.
Don’t expect a mentor to agree with everything you say. In fact, they should do just the opposite. They will ask questions you won’t want to hear and challenge your decisions, but they’re not doing it to be difficult; they want you to make the most informed decisions so that your business succeeds. A good mentor will understand your business’ potential for growth, set achievable goals and help you to identify and overcome the barriers holding you back.
A mentor should also help you to grow your business network and put you in touch with other business people in a position to help. Life leading an SME can be lonely, but a mentor can not only stand by you, but also put you in touch with like-minded professionals.
If you decide not to use a business mentor, there are regional business support organisations who can fulfil many of the same functions. Find them online, or through your local council. Some are free, some ask a fee, but it will be cheaper than a mentor. You will also make numerous local business connections through a local enterprise network and some of them may be willing to offer good advice.
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your first business plan to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.