5 Must-Have Qualities in a Small Business Mentor
If you are just starting your small business, one way to avoid common mistakes and increase your chances of success is by learning from those who came before you. You can gather a great deal of useful information by attending small business events, following business and industry influencers on social media, and reading blogs and other business publications that offer advice and relevant tips. You can also get a lot of value from enlisting the support of a small business mentor.
A mentor is someone who has been where you are, made it through the challenges, and learned a thing or two in the process. Mentors want to pass that knowledge to you by sharing advice when you need it, supporting you through problems, and helping you become better at what you do. Most mentors wear many different hats, including coach, sounding board, advisor, cheerleader, devil's advocate, trainer, public supporter, introducer, and more. For most mentors, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate positive behaviors that will help you reach success.
The qualities that make a mentor a good fit for you are likely going to be very specific to your own experience level, the type of business you are starting and your individual challenges. There are some general qualities you should look for in someone you are considering as a small business mentor.
If your potential mentor is not available to provide the support you need, it will be a difficult relationship to build. While you shouldn't expect all-hours access to your mentor, together you and your mentor should be able to set a schedule for a meeting that works with both of your schedules. Make sure you clarify expectations from the beginning so you are both on the same page.
Clearly, if a mentor doesn't have the experience needed to help you work through challenges, then he or she may not be the right mentor for you. Keep in mind that experience can come in many different forms -- on the job experience, life experience, formal education and even lessons learned from his or her own mentor. Be open to working with a mentor who may have a different background than your own.
Respectful (and Respected)
Respect is two-fold when it comes to mentors. First, you need to build a mutually respectful relationship that will allow both parties to feel valued and listened to while building trust. Second, your mentor should be someone who has earned the respect of his or her colleagues and peers. It's a red flag if your potential mentor does not have a good reputation in the industry.
The ability to listen is important enough to earn its own list item. You don't want a mentor who exists solely to hear himself talk. The crux of good mentoring is conversation and collaboration. On the other side, you should also be practicing good listening as you fairly consider all of the input offered by your mentor, even when it may not be what you want to hear.
One of the clearest signs that you found a great mentor is his or her ability to inspire you to do more, accomplish more, and be more. A mentor should give you hope and help you believe that even the biggest of goals is achievable. If you find a mentor who inspires you in this way and helps you find the motivation you need to excel, then you have found a great mentor!
Although it may take time to find the right match, a mentor can be a very valuable partner in your small business journey, helping you overcome the fear of failure and get past your biggest challenges. To find a mentor, reach out to colleagues and ask for a recommendation, search your LinkedIn network or use the SCORE mentor search tool.