The term, “no man is an island” is especially true for an entrepreneur. All entrepreneurs can benefit from a mentor, both new and seasoned. Finding the right mentor can be challenging. We all have blind spots, things about ourselves that we do not really see. It is to our benefit as business owners to have someone who is willing to tell us the hard stuff. It might be something like I need to improve my work ethic if I am serious about starting or growing a business, or maybe I do not come off as genuine, or my customer service needs work. As a new entrepreneur in a traditional business (Medical Billing), I sought out help from our local chapter of Service Corps of Retired Executives or SCORE. I was looking for some guidance for my new start up. I was a little dismayed when the gentleman that was assigned to me told me I probably would not be successful. I basically told him, with all due respect, I do not agree with you, and that I WOULD do it! I proved him wrong! This is not to say that SCORE is not a good resource, but for me it was a good lesson learned! Finding the right person is like mining for gold!
What one is and is not
Mentors are business consultants or advisors. They are not trying to replicate themselves in you, or take over your business, but they guide you through important decisions and actions. They are meant to be role models and inspirational. He/She is not your best friend, or your cheer leader. The following attributes should be kept in mind during your search.
A good mentor must be successful in the type of business you are involved in, as well as having good all-round business skills, like time and project management. If I am trying to start up or grow a medical billing business, a retail outlet owner will not be able to give me targeted advice for my particular type of business. They must be willing to invest time and energy into me and my business. Mentoring takes time. If the person I would like to participate is actively running a business, I represent one more thing he/she is responsible for. He/she is positive and enthusiastic. You are connecting with them for support and encouragement. They are honest. In addition to honesty, they should be forth-right, telling you what you need to hear, but maybe not what you want to hear. They should have integrity, perseverance, compassion, courage and loyalty. He/she should be good at networking, so they in turn can tell you how to network.
There are also some things you, as the men-tee should be aware of. Whether your coach meets with you once a week or once a month you should always respect their time. Know what you want to discuss beforehand, write down your questions. Make sure you bring business reports for review, or any other documentation you want your mentor to review such as business plans, etc. Note: Make sure you discuss with your prospective mentor what your expectations are, as well as what his/her expectations are for this relationship.
How do you find one?
As I mentioned before, the search can be a little tricky. Networking is invaluable in this endeavour. Join the local chapter of the Chamber of Commerce and attend their mixers. Check out Soroptimist meetings, network groups, etc. Also mentoring organizations which you could research online are available. It will take time, but get out there and meet people. If you are willing to submit yourself honestly and be transparent, this special relationship can make all the difference in the world to you and your business.