Whether you’re starting your first small business or you’re a serial entrepreneur, you’ll probably do better with a mentor. Not because they have all the right answers, far from it. The best mentors make a ton of mistakes – which is why they’re so valuable.
Mentors are really good failures.
‘Failing fast’ is a popular notion in business. If you’re going to make a mistake – and everyone does – you might as well get it over with quickly. Learn the lessons and move on. But there’s something even better than failing fast, and that’s learning from someone who has already failed. You get the gain without the pain. That’s where mentors come in.
Here are our top tips on choosing the right person to help you grow.
1. Know what a mentor is and isn’t - A small business mentor is not a business coach – they don’t tell you what to do. They tell you about similar problems they had and show you how to find a solution.
2. Get started early - It’s never too soon to look for a small business mentor. They can help you figure out if your business idea has legs. As a novice, you’re most vulnerable to mistakes in the early days. A mentor can help you avoid common pitfalls and get your business set up right.
3. Look for someone compatible - When picking a mentor, go for someone who’s in business themselves. You have to feel comfortable with your mentor as a person because you’ll be sharing more than just numbers.
4. Value the time and energy of your mentor - You’ve chosen your small business mentor because they represent success in your eyes. You want to get as much from them as possible, but don’t become a burden. Ask them how they’d like to organise your time together.
Get a mentor and get moving.
Choosing a small business mentor is the first step in embracing an entrepreneurial frame of mind. It signals you’re ready to learn, pivot, adapt and evolve. But don’t feel you have to take the first mentor that comes along.
It’s important to connect with them on a personal level. You’ll get much more out of your mentor if you can share the full experience of running a business – from the numbers right through to the emotions.