There’s one essential item you’re missing that’s key to your continued success. No, it’s not your business plan, mission statement or investors (though the latter may be necessary!). No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, you can benefit from having a professional mentor.
If you’ve never had a mentor, you’re missing out on many valuable benefits, including advice, collaboration and support. Here are a few undeniable reasons to get a mentor and what you can do to find an effective one.
A Mentor Has Been Where You Are
Not everyone has opened their own business, made it past the critical five-year mark, and lived to tell the tale—perhaps you haven’t even reached that milestone yet. A mentor is someone who has had succeeded as an entrepreneur, and can share invaluable insight from their own experience.
They can also provide necessary support on the rocky road of being a business owner. While they won’t be able to shield you from every misstep or poor decision, they can give you more experience and insight than you could ever get from reading business books or articles.
Most importantly, working with a mentor may be a critical factor in the longevity of your business as well. According to a 2014 survey, “70 percent of small business owners that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, double the rate of those who do not receive mentoring.”
They Can Give Honest Insight and Feedback
When running a business from the ground level of your company, it can be difficult to see the big picture. You have a narrow focus instead of a zoomed-out perspective that can provide a more honest look at what’s working and what needs to change. A mentor wants you to succeed and has the ability to give you that honest and long-view perspective. He or she can analyze what’s working well and what needs to change from an outside perspective—which is critical.
“A mentor is responsible for being honest and telling you like it is,” says Heather Huhman from glassdoor. “Your mentor’s job isn’t to tear your confidence down, but they should help you learn appropriate business behavior by giving you an opportunity for self-examination and growth.”
A Mentor Will Encourage You to Take (Necessary) Risks
You’ve already used your savings and got investors to open your business, how could you possibly need to take more risks? Well, if you want to succeed, you need to push past your comfort zone and do something to stand out from your competitors. This doesn’t mean you should be irrational and spend frivolously, but you should seize opportunities for growth or advancement.
In a 2016 survey of one thousand Americans, 31 percent of respondents said personal failure, including financial loss and unemployment, was their biggest fear. This fear of failure can (and likely will) hold you back as a business owner. A mentor, on the other hand, can help mitigate this fear, giving advice about when to take risks and where to be conservative.
“Smart small-business owners know that having an advantage like a mentor can be crucial in staying ahead of the market, and, in some cases, out of bankruptcy,” says John Rampton from Inc. “Look for the helping hand of a mentor to open your mind to new ideas, your address book to new contacts, and your business to new opportunities.”
They Can Help You Build Your Network
Even small business owners need a strong network. Your mentor can introduce you to investors, business partners, employees and potential customers. If he or she is well-respected in your industry, you’ll already have an in with their network. This makes it easier to form strong, beneficial relationships. Just because you run your own business, doesn’t mean you don’t need a strong team of professional colleagues.
The Question Remains: How do I find a mentor?
Before you can find a mentor, you need to know the necessary qualifications of a good one. They should…:
- Be in the same industry, or one similar.
- Have previous success running a business (preferably more than one).
- Have a large network of business professionals.
- Be honest and open, and willing to challenge you to learn, grow and succeed.
The best place to start looking is your own, current network. Do you know an entrepreneur or current or former business owner who inspires you? Find out more about their experience and email or reach out via LinkedIn for an initial meeting. You want to make sure this person has the necessary qualifications and the time and desire before you ask for their mentorship.
There are great online resources to help you find the right mentor as well. SCORE is a nonprofit association that helps small businesses through education and mentorship. You can use their online community to find an in-person or online mentor. You can also look into trade or professional associations or a business development center.
Find someone you admire who can help you make the most of your business. A mentor will cost you nothing and will be the best decision you’ve ever made for your professional growth and your business.
Author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and content marketing consultant. She’s written for Forbes, Manta, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect on LinkedIn.