One of the most basic and cliche pieces of advice that you will receive constantly as a small business owner is to find a mentor. As with other cliches, it’s rooted in absolute truth but doesn’t really describe much about the how and the why. Connecting with an established professional who you admire and building a relationship can open doors for you, both in terms of professional advice and increased networking opportunities.
A mentor is someone who has experience and networks in your industry who would be willing to help you work through problems, brainstorm solutions, and generally impart advice. A mentor is different from a coach because the advice is often informal and unstructured, and the relationship is more casual. A coach spends a predetermined amount of time helping you strategize and solve specific immediate problems. Both mentors and coaches give advice, help you make connections, and use their years of experience to help you become successful faster.
Identifying A Mentor
When it comes time to execute the task list “find a mentor,” the first roadblock many entrepreneurs face is identifying who would be a worthwhile mentor to have. Building a relationship takes time and effort, which both seem to run right through a small business owner’s hands. It’s difficult enough to build relationships with a small number of people, so you don’t want to spend time cultivating the wrong ones.
Take a moment to picture the mentor relationship you’re looking for. What has this person accomplished that makes them an expert? How has this person become successful or overcame obstacles, and what industry are they successful in? What could you hope to gain from such a relationship, and what might you have to offer in return?
The answer to these questions will give you a place to start your search. Start a spreadsheet with contact information for people who fit the profile of your ideal mentor. You can use websites like LinkedIn to find information on websites and email addresses. Don’t compose an email just yet, however. You’ve taken the time to consider what you might get out of a relationship with a mentor, but you still need to define what you can offer in return. Running a small business means that you don’t have an infinite amount of time to network with people. The individuals you reach out to will be facing the same dilemma. In order to establish the relationship, you’ll need to vocalize the reasons they should reply to your email.
No Substitute For Quality Research
Successfully navigating this hurdle means research. It’s not enough to offer your services vaguely. What specific problems are they facing that you could provide a solution to? What specific connection do you have that this person could benefit from? Essentially, how can you set yourself apart and make yourself useful to this person? It’s also a good idea to tell your mentor exactly what you wish for in return if you have something specific in mind. Even if you are only looking for an open line of communication and to appear on this person’s radar, it doesn’t hurt to make that clear.
When you’ve put in the time and energy to compose a thoughtful and compelling introduction, all you can do is attempt to make the contact. If it is possible for you to meet this person face to face, that should be your priority. If they are local to your area, this could mean making an appointment with them or frequenting networking events where they are likely to be. You can meet contacts from out of town at regional or national conventions, as well as while traveling. If meeting in person is impractical or unlikely, an email is perfectly appropriate.
Log notes on your spreadsheet when you attempt to make contact. Follow through quickly and competently on any tasks you offered to complete. It’s likely that not everyone you contact will become a professional mentor to you, but the focus ought to be on quality over quantity. Cultivating a few key relationships will benefit you more than dozens and dozens of people who are a poor fit for you. Keep thinking about what you can bring to the table and identifying potential people until you make the connection that sticks.
Throughout history, there have been many innovative and successful people who have left legacies of great advice to help you grow. Although a living mentor can help you make real-time connections, a one-sided mentorship with a deceased industry leader can give you a great deal of insight. Many business owners look to the past to learn the techniques they need to stay successful today.
Living Free Enterprises
Finding a mentor is one of the best ways to solve problems and build a professional network, but it’s a process that can take time. If you need financial wellness coaching now, let us help you kick your finances back into shape and strategize how to take your company to the next level.