Have you ever thought of the importance of mentors in business?
Of course, there is no doubt that when it comes to business news, opportunities, and the current state of events in your industry, you can find a ton of information right at your fingertips from legitimate sources.
However, what you do not get from those sources is wisdom, this you can only get from having a business mentor to guide you.
You can rely on having a steady flow of information from your friends and family, online publications, internet gurus, and even from people you happen to run into during events.
These generic, cookie-cutter pieces of advice that you can get from other sources can only take you so far in your industry.
But when you have a good business mentor, you will find that there is so much more to running a business.
What is a Business Mentor?
The term mentor came from The Odyssey by Homer.
Before Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan war, he left his son and entire estate to his most loyal friend Mentor.
Aside from taking care of Odysseus’s home, Mentor was also responsible for training his son, the young Telemachus on various things as he grew up.
Now, you might think that Mentor was a wise, old man, but he was actually just in his early twenties at the time.
Today, a mentor, more commonly a business mentor is someone who has a whole lot more experience and wisdom about your industry.
He/she is willing to take you under his/her wing, guiding you towards the right path.
Having a business mentor is not the same as hiring a consultant to help you run your business.
Mentorship is a relationship between you and your mentor.
A mentor is someone who has lots more years of business experience and can guide you during difficult decision making.
A mentor will help to point out how you can make improvements in your company.
Share anecdotes about how he/she overcame the same kinds of problems that you have.
A mentor will also, challenge and motivate you to improve your performance to levels that you could not achieve by yourself.
Having a mentor in business means you will have a partner with whom you can share your views.
A partner you can confide to without any fear of judgment or negative repercussions.
Just having an objective discussion with your mentor can give you fresh insight into problem-solving and decision making.
Why Do You Need A Business Mentor?
Of course, you can opt to not have a mentor.
But once you know the importance of mentors in business, you might change your mind about not having one.
You Will Gain Knowledge That You Will Not Find in Any Book
Experience is the best teacher.
But if you lack the time to learn from experience yourself, you need someone by your side.
Ideally, someone who already experienced the things you need to learn, so don’t have to go through them yourself.
In addition, there is only so much that you can learn from books; authors would rarely divulge everything that they know, especially their most personal experiences.
A mentor need not tell you all of his/her experiences.
But your mentor will teach you how he/she got out of the trouble that you are currently in.
Having A Mentor Makes It More Likely For You To Succeed
According to a 2013 executive coaching survey, 80 percent of the CEOs who participated said that they had mentors to show them the ropes.
In yet another survey, 93 percent of startup entrepreneurs admitted that the key to success is having mentors in business.
When you find the right mentor, your likelihood to succeed will increase by several times.
Just think about the things that you will receive: industry connections, sage advice, the occasional check on your status, and the moral and ethical guidance, all of these will more or less facilitate your success in business.
You Will Gain Connections Through Your Mentor
The importance of mentors in business usually becomes evident by the time potential investors find out that the owner is being mentored by a successful businessperson.
They will be much easier to convince to invest in the company.
In addition, your mentor can introduce you to his/her own network of business connections, all of which you can leverage to benefit your company.
Your mentor is already invested in seeing you succeed, so it will be no problem for him/her to let you tap into his/her wellspring of business connections.
Having A Mentor Will Make You Feel Reassured
One of the importance of mentors in business is that you will have someone you can share your worries with, without any serious drawbacks.
In addition, you will have someone by your side who has already seen it all when it comes to your business.
When you run into a particularly tough problem or situation, odds are that your mentor has seen the same thing many times over, and knows just what to do in such cases.
You do not have to stress yourself figuring things out on your own.
Having a mentor to guide you will give you the confidence to steer your company towards success.
Having A Mentor Will Give Your Business Staying Power
According to the Small Business Association (SBA), more than 30% of startups will not survive past their first two years in business, and almost 50% will not make it to their fifth anniversary.
On the other hand, more than 70% of startups who had mentoring in business have managed to survive for more than five years.
Get a mentor who knows the ups-and-downs of the industry and the kinds of mistakes to avoid.
This will add greatly to the survivability of your startup company.
This is one of the benefits of mentoring if there ever is one.
Having A Mentor Will Help You Increase Your Emotional Quotient
The worst business decisions are those done in the heat of the moment.
Yes, those times when you cannot rein in your emotions.
If you are a young and brash entrepreneur, you will need the guidance of someone who is more mature, and of course, more successful than you are.
When you have a mentor to advise you when you need to make a serious decision, you will have more control over your emotions.
Letting your emotions mix into your business dealings is a recipe for disaster.
You should never make decisions based on your emotional feelings alone.
Getting a mentor with vast experience will help you curb this very bad habit, and will show you the correct way to respond in any given situation.
A Mentor Will Provide You With Much-Needed Encouragement
Having a mentor does not mean you will be immune from failure.
Keep in mind that your mentor will not make decisions for you; meddling in your decisions will prevent you from attaining growth.
When your decisions do not pan out as you thought they would, having a mentor provide you with encouragement will soften the blow dealt by your failure to your ego.
Where to Look?
Although there are plenty of people out there who are more than willing to be your mentor, not all of them is the right fit for your particular needs.
To help you understand how you can find a mentor, follow these instructions:
Start Your Search In Your Own Network
Networking is the act of building connections with other people; connections that you and your business can benefit from.
However, if you are a beginner at doing business, building your network from the ground up can be quite difficult.
When building your network, do not focus on finding “the one” right away.
Instead, concentrate first on building your connections in a variety of different industries.
More so, connect with everyone whom you think you can learn a lot from.
Once you have built up your connections list, you can start narrowing it down to find someone who will mentor you.
Attend As Many Of The Upcoming Events In Your Field As Possible
Another way on how to find a mentor is to attend conferences in your industry.
If there will be a conference opening soon then you need to register for it.
This is because there is a chance that the most prominent entrepreneurs in your city will be giving a talk there, and they would make great potential mentors.
You should make it a point to attend these kinds of events and use the opportunity to network.
In events like these, it is pretty much normal to ask for someone’s business card and give out your own, so don’t be shy.
If you find someone in the crowd who could potentially be your mentor, and you have had a brief chat with the person, the next thing you should do is build up your relationship.
Take A Chance And Ask Your Dream Mentor
You surely must have someone that you look up to.
Someone who can best provide you with mentoring in business other than your “idol”.
It might feel intimidating to ask a person whom you admire to become your mentor.
Notwithstanding, you should at least give it a shot.
Put yourself out there; do not be afraid to reach out and ask your hero for help.
Your idol might agree to your request.
Use the Internet
There are lots of online resources that you can use to locate a mentor.
The best part is that most of them are actually free to use, like:
LinkedIn – This is like Facebook for professionals.
Here you can join groups that are relevant to your industry.
You can also chat with the other members to find your mentor, or you can make a public post to let the group know that you are looking for someone who could be your mentor.
Micromentor – You just need to create a free account, complete your profile, make a request for a mentor, and start messaging potential business mentors in the member’s list.
Now That You Found Someone, What Do You Do Next?
Okay, now that you have found someone who could potentially become your mentor, how do you go about asking him/her for help?
Here are some tips that you might find useful:
1. What Do You Really Need? A Coach Or A Mentor?
First, make sure that what you really need is a mentor.
If you need a short-term teacher who follows a structured set of instructions, then what you need is a coach.
A mentor is for the long run; it could last a couple of months or years, it depends on the kind of relationship you have built up.
If you are looking for someone who can pass on their experiences, skills, and maybe their trade secrets, then you need a mentor.
2. Get To Know The Person First
One does not simply jump into becoming someone else’s mentee, that is not how this works.
Before you ask someone to become your mentor, get to know the person first.
In fact, you should never just ask a person to mentor you.
Just start getting to know the person; ask him/her to join you for coffee, lunch, or for a couple of drinks at your local watering hole.
Get to know the person first before making him/her your mentor.
In fact, you should not actively make the person into your mentor, let it happen naturally.
First, look for a person who happens to have the qualities of a mentor that you like, and let things happen from there; you will know when to make a formal request when the time comes.
3. Determine If Your Potential Mentor Is A Good Fit For You
To know if a person is fit to become your mentor, you need to know what you are looking for first.
Business mentors are not a “one-size-fits-all” deal, you need to find the one who shares a similar entrepreneurial viewpoint.
It does not mean that when a person is successful that he/she could be the best fit for you.
Do not think that just because a person is successful in his/her own ventures that he/she can be a viable mentor for you.
4. Choose A Person Who Does Not Have Any Ties To Your Company
You might think that your father would be a great mentor, or maybe one of your senior investors could play the part.
They know your business, and you already have a connection, so why not make them into your mentor?
The reason is that they have strong emotional and/or financial ties to your business.
If a person has any vested interest in your company, he might only tell you the things that you want to hear, not the things that you need to hear.
The reason you are looking for a mentor is that you need someone who will tell you straight up what you need to improve yourself.
A true mentor will give you real advice, not fill you up with fluff.
5. Be Genuinely Interested In What Your Prospective Mentor Has To Say
To coax someone to become your mentor, you just have to act naturally and be genuinely interested in what the person does.
When the person gives you advice, be very thankful for it.
Entrepreneurs, especially the experienced ones, love to share their knowledge with the next generation.
This may be an ego thing.
But nevertheless, if you want a person to become your mentor, hang on to every word that the person says.
6. Confirm Your Relationship As A Mentor And Mentee, And Be Clear About Your End Goals
Although it was mentioned earlier not to use the term “mentor”, that was just at the beginning.
You don’t just stand in front of a person and then ask him to become your mentor right away without cultivating a relationship first.
You need to develop a relationship first before asking the person if it’s alright to become his mentee.
Once you have confirmed your mentor-mentee relationship, you need to agree on the goals of your partnership.
First, agree on how often you will meet each other for discussions.
What goal of yours do the two of you need to work towards, and how will you achieve it?
Be clear on these details so you will not be wasting each other’s time.
7. Have Something To Give Back To Your Mentor
Keep in mind that mentors have other important things to do.
Your mentor is doing you a favor, so you have to give them something in return.
It does not need to be anything extravagant.
For instance, if your mentor has a project he is working on, give him feedback on what you think is working and what isn’t.
8. You Don’t Always Have To Follow Your Mentor’s Advice
Your mentor is your guide and your teacher, but that does not mean that he/she has the last say about things.
If your gut feeling is telling you that what your mentor is telling you to do is not the best idea, then follow your instinct.
You are your own boss, you have the last say in any decision.
However, if your mentor gives you advice, and you agreed to use the advice, then use it.
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