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Three Cheers to Our Mentors: Helping Build Small Business Success

By: Susan Solovic

 

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In my career, I’ve been blessed to have relationships with a number of people that have been down the same path I was, or am, taking. They’ve been experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance to me—for no real personal or monetary gain. They are my mentors, without whom I would not have reached the level of success I have today. A mentor is someone who has been there before, done that before, and wants you to avoid the pitfalls and perils he or she experienced. Mentors are imperative to the success of any entrepreneur. And each January, we recognize these indispensable members of the community.

 
January is national mentoring month. Created in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Mentoring Month focuses national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes. NMM celebrates mentoring and the positive effect it can have on young lives. There’s even a “Thank Your Mentor Day,” taking place on Thursday, January 16, 2014. Recognize the mentors in your life by sending them a thank you card, giving them a call, or telling them thank you on social media using #SomeoneWhoMatters. If you don’t have a mentor, whether you’re a new or somewhat seasoned entrepreneur, it’s high time you find one.
 
Every new business owner, or someone thinking about starting his or her own business, needs a mentor. The experience I had with various mentors throughout my life was so fantastic that I chose to become a mentor myself. Sometimes, the toughest part is finding one. The U.S. Small Business Association has some tips for finding and working with a mentor for your small business. They are:
 
1. Government-Sponsored Mentor Organizations
 
You might be surprised, but the government offers a great deal of free resources, including Small Business Assistance and Training and Mentoring services to support small business owners, both online and locally. One organization in particular—SCORE—provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners nationwide. Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE volunteers share their expertise through in-person and online counseling. Your primary counselor will be your main point of contact, but they can and will help identify and introduce you to other specialists. Other government-sponsored sources of counseling and mentoring include, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers, U.S. Export Assistance Centers, and Minority Business Development Centers.
 
2. Trade Associations
 
Many trade associations operate mentor-protégé programs that provide guidance to help you build your business. These mentoring programs are usually a combination of formal one-on-one mentoring sessions and group networking and discussion opportunities with fellow protégés.
 
3. Mentoring for Anyone Interested in Selling to the U.S. Government
 
This one can be a tough egg to crack, but there’s good news. The General Services Administration (GSA) offers a Mentor-Protégé Program specifically designed to encourage prime contractors to help small businesses. SBA also offers a Mentor Protege Program for participants in the 8(a) Business Development Program.
 
4. Look to Your Network
 
One of the best ways to find a mentor who knows your industry, your community, and comes with a great referral is to use your contacts lists. Whether there is a business owner you admire, or know someone in your old job that you respect and value for his business insight, ask that person to be your mentor.
 
If you’d like more information about National Mentoring Month, visit its website.
 
This article was originally published by Susan Solovic
Published: January 6, 2014
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Susan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com and USA Today bestselling author, and attorney. She was the CEO and co-founder of SBTV.com—small business television—a company she grew from its infancy to a million dollar plus entity. She appears regularly as a featured expert on Fox Business, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and can be seen currently as a small business expert on the AT&T Networking Exchange website. Susan is a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College and the Advisory Boards for the John Cook School of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University as well as the Fishman School of Entrepreneurship at Columbia College. 

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