According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a mentor is a “trusted counselor or guide.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to have someone they can trust to guide them through the new world of small business ownership?
Unfortunately, finding a mentor isn’t easy–and finding a “good one” — one that is the right fit for you — is even more difficult.
If you feel like you’re struggling to fit the pieces together with your new business, we have some tips for you. Here are three surprising ways to find the help – and guidance — you need.
Make Sure You Know What You Want
Believe it or not, finding the right mentor starts with you. Before you reach out to anyone for guidance or support, be sure you know what you want from the relationship.
Determining the type of resource you need is a critical first step in mentor search. Sit down and write a list of what you’re looking for in a mentor. Do you need someone who is local? Well-connected? Does someone with marketing expertise who best fits the bill?
Give some thought to what you have to offer — so that when you’re chatting with potential mentors you prove your value. You’ll need to sell yourself to the mentor to show you’re worth their time. Most of us (including you) are busy, so take some time to nail down what you bring to the table and how exactly you need help.
Finding a mentor isn’t like placing an ad. You can’t just call a stranger out of nowhere and ask him to be your mentor—as flattering as that may sound it’s not going to fly.
Taking on a formal mentorship position will probably may be too much for them to squeeze in. Instead of asking directly, opt for the side door approach. Reach out to people you want to connect with and form honest to goodness relationships.
Great mentors come from relationships and not interviews. Use LinkedIn or your local Chamber of Commerce to meet people start building “real” business relationships.
Expand Your Definition
Who says that mentors have to be older than you? Depending on which areas you need help in you might get a lot out of having a younger mentor that can show you the ropes on new tech, social media or other areas.
You can also reach out to your peers. In a peer network, you might all be going through the same steps to improve your business, but there are unique strengths and information that you’re all bringing to the table. You can mentor your own mentors and all grow together.
Some other places to find small business mentorship include:
SCORE Mentors – Sponsored by Small Business Association (SBA), SCORE provides free counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners through a network of business executives and volunteers. Connect with them for one-on-one in person or online support.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – There’s all kinds of support for small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs, through SBDCs—including counseling, marketing advice and management guidance.
Trade Associations – Many trade associations have mentor-mentee programs to help small business owners build their business. Programs include one-on-one mentoring sessions, as well as group networking with other entrepreneurs and small business owners. To find a trade association for your specific industry, consult your local SBA district office.
If you’re looking for a good book on the subject, check out The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You, by Lois J. Zachary. It’s an easy-to-read book that will provide you some insight into the mentee / mentor relationship so you can both get the most out of it.
Do you have a small business mentor? How did you find him or her? Give us the scoop.
About the author:
Lawton Ursrey – Sage One awareness guru and fellow entrepreneur
I have a healthy disrespect for the impossible and a passion for the little details. While I run my own small business, I am also passionate about helping other small business owners. If I’m not running my business, or helping you run yours, then I’m probably playing guitar.