When you’re starting a company, having a mentor makes good business sense. They can teach you new skills, show you how to avoid common mistakes, introduce you to their contacts, and help you achieve your goals.
As much as you wish you did, you don’t know everything. A mentor can help you fill in the gaps and navigate new territory.
Gaining experience takes time, but you can learn from your mentor’s experiences while you gain your own. They can teach you from their mistakes, so you don’t make them, too.
They can also introduce you to their extensive networks, which might include potential partners or customers. If you meet someone through your mentor, you’ll have a stronger connection with them than if you met them at a networking event.
A UPS study shows having a mentor is good for the longevity of your business. 70% of businesses with mentors survive past five years. That’s compared to 30% of all businesses not surviving past one year and 50% not surviving past five years.
What to Look for in a Mentor
Not just any mentor is good for your business; you have to find the right one.
Choose someone with knowledge of your industry. They should either work in your industry or in a complementary industry.
Ideally, your mentor will have skills you don’t have. They can teach you those skills and provide new ways to approach issues within your business.
You want to find a one who’s willing to tell you the truth. You don’t want a one who only tells you what you want to hear. They should be able to tell you when they think you’re about to make a mistake so you can learn and correct.
What you need from a mentor now is different than what you’ll need a year from now. Determine what you need now and look for a someone who can fill those needs. Your needs from a mentor will also help you decide whether you should find someone who can meet with you regularly or one who you can go to just when an issue arises.
Where to Find a Mentor
When you’re first looking for a mentor, you might have no idea where to begin.
You can go to SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses grow and thrive. They can help connect you with a mentor, for free, with expertise in your industry.
You can also go to your local Small Business Development Center, which uses Small Business Association (SBA) and local and state government funds to help you find a mentor.
When looking for a mentor, don’t forget about your own network. Think about friends, family, and professional connections to see if you know anyone who has successfully run their business. When approaching someone you know, it may be tempting to ask them if you can “pick their brain,” but if you want a long-lasting mentorship, ask them directly whether they’d be willing to mentor you.
The right person can help you and your business grow and achieve your goals.