Enter mentoring - gaining support and direction from someone else who is successful in business, who guides you, advises you, challenges you as you take your business to a whole new level.
My last business mentor helped me get to grips with my transferrable skills from my corporate days, as well as assisting me become more profitable in business. Mentoring is known to deliver tangible results in performance, often leading to increased profits – that’s a good enough reason to have a mentor for me! And I have to say it worked for me.
The purpose of mentoring is for someone to pass on their knowledge and experience to someone less experienced than they are. It is not a substitute for learning the basics – you need to have a reasonable level of knowledge and expertise with your business at the start of the mentoring process so that the mentor can help you progress.
A mentor’s role is to help identify what you do particularly well - hence you need to have that basic level of knowledge at the start of the relationship so that the mentor can help you. They also help you to notice the areas that you need to change, improve, or do differently in your business, whilst challenging you, pushing your boundaries, encouraging you to do things that you might not otherwise have done.
In fact, I bet you end up getting into a love/hate relationship at times!
You have an active role to play as the mentee as well, mainly to make sure you are prepared for your mentoring sessions, knowing what you want to get out of each session. You will be quizzed by your mentor – it’s not their job to do all the talking. Write your goals down for the mentoring as a whole, as well as the goals for each session. For example, you may choose to focus entirely on pricing, or perhaps you need a mentor who helps you develop your sales technique, or encourages with business development.
How, then, do you go about finding a mentor? We need to accept that wanting to be mentored doesn’t carry any rights to be mentored – remember, some business owners may view you as the competition and so may be reluctant to help you develop your business skills. You may need to look for a mentor who works in a different field – after all, many business skills are transferrable between different types of business.
It makes sense to choose someone that you respect, and who is a good benchmark for you in your development towards your goals, someone who can influence you as you grow as a business person. Approach people at your networking groups or who are members of your local Chamber of Commerce. If they don’t want to mentor you ask them who they recommend you talk with. And be prepared to pay for the sessions – you may get the first session free, but after that you can expect to pay upwards of £75 per hour. I generally find that around 6 sessions is sufficient to help me progress as long as I am focused on what I want out of the mentoring process.