How to Find the Best Small-Business Mentor

| August 7, 2019 | Strategic Growth

Whether you’re new to the small-business scene or you’ve been running a company for years, every owner wants to make the best decisions for their business and to avoid any mistakes where possible. In pursuing that goal, it can be tremendously helpful to get advice from someone who has already been in your shoes.

Small-business mentors can provide important insights and advice based on first-hand experience. In fact, working with a mentor increases an entrepreneur’s likelihood of business success by fivefold, according to research from SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors.

What to Look For

To choose a good mentor, you want to find someone who has already reached a level of success in your area. This could be someone in the same industry who is a few years ahead of you or a person in a related business who has an impressive track record.

You want someone who will be honest in their feedback and not just say what they think you want to hear. This can be uncomfortable at times, but it’s the only way you’ll grow.

One of the main reasons to have a mentor is to avoid mistakes and a steep learning curve. That means you need to do what your mentor tells you to do. They should ask you to commit to next steps after every meeting and then check that you follow through.

Where to Look

Finding a good mentor can feel intimidating. An easy way to start your search is with a professional organization that matches people with mentors. For example, SCORE or will introduce you to potential mentors who have established themselves in your industry or who have the specific expertise you need.

Networking at industry events is another place to find a mentor. In-person searches can be helpful for finding someone with a personality that mixes well with yours. Collect business cards and reach out later by phone or email.

Or, you can find a mentor through social media. Look for someone who has a good reputation in your industry and start a conversation online.

How to Ask

Once you find a potential small-business mentor, reach out directly and see if they would be receptive to starting and maintaining a relationship. First, ask if they’d be willing to meet with you or arrange a quick phone call. Be up front. You could say, “I’m building a company, and I see you have wonderful experience. I’d love to learn from you. Are you open to a meeting or phone call?”

Your best chances for getting a “yes” come from people who have a shared experience in your industry or stage of business growth. Asking the CEO of a multibillion-dollar company might not be the best place to start, but someone who is an entrepreneur and has scaled a business might be willing to give advice to someone who reminds them of themselves.

Don’t Give Up

Having a mentor is incredibly important, so if your first arrangement doesn’t work out, try again. Small-business mentors can give you unparalleled insights and inspiration that will allow you to grow faster than if you did it on your own.

Look at mentoring as an investment for both parties. Work hard to develop the relationship, and be willing to put in lots of time and effort — it could turn out to be the most important business relationship you have.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
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