Your friends and family, the online gurus, publications, and even casual acquaintances can provide you with a steady flow of information regarding business news, industry developments, and opportunities. Industry analysts, consultants, employees, and good networking contacts can share their expert knowledge with you regarding particular situations and needs you may encounter. However, only a business mentor can truly share wisdom with you on an ongoing basis, and in a manner that can have a direct, positive impact on the growth of your business over time. The generic business advice you'll get from online publications will only go so far, and a good business mentor picks up right where that leaves off.
A business mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time, usually free of charge.
Does this sound a little too good to be true? Well, first and foremost, being a business mentor to an up-and-coming entrepreneur is a great way of giving back to their community, and to society at large when their advice and guidance can have a measurable impact helping their mentees.
Many business mentors may advise people in order to develop their skills as a teacher, manager, strategist, or consultant. And a true mentorship relationship also works in both directions—your mentor gets to learn about new ideas, strategies, and tactics from you, just as you'll learn timeless wisdom from them.
Here are five key benefits of finding and maintaining a relationship with a business mentor:
Where Else Are You Going to Turn?
Once you launch into your own business, there's no boss to turn to for advice or direction when you're in a pinch—maybe not even any employees yet. Although you're flying solo, you don't have to be. Everybody needs a good reliable sounding board, second opinion, and sometimes just emotional support when the times get tough (and they will).
They've "Been There and Done That"
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of finding a business mentor is that you can learn from their previous mistakes and successes. Your mentor doesn't need to have experience in your particular industry—though it helps if they do—so that you're maximizing your opportunities to leverage key relationships. They don't have to be up on the latest trends or technology—you've got other sources for that. Your mentor's role is to share with you lessons from their experience in the hopes that you can learn them quickly and easily.
It's (Usually) Free
If you're on a tight budget, that's a major factor. While good coaches and consultants may be able to offer some things that a mentor doesn't, it almost always comes at a price, usually of several hundred dollars (or more) each month. Mentors, though, are readily available, free of charge through a number of organizations, such as SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and many other groups. But plan on at least treating your mentor to lunch or coffee when you meet together.
Expand Your Social Network
Your mentor, being an experienced businessperson, is likely to have an extensive network, and can offer you access to far more senior decision-makers than you currently have. And they will be far more willing to open that network up to you than some casual acquaintance from a networking meeting.
A Trusted, Long-Term Relationship.
Your mentor has no ulterior motive—no service or product to sell you. That, combined with their experience and other qualities, creates a good foundation for trust. And as the relationship develops over time, that trust can grow even stronger. Also, your time with them becomes more and more efficient as they become more and more familiar with you and your business.
As you can see, the rewards of having a business mentor can be great and the risk is non-existent. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding a good mentor. Every entrepreneur should have one.