There are almost too many reasons to have a mentor. After reading this you'll wonder how you ever got along without one!
1. Much Needed Emotional Support
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely experience. Often the business colleagues that we build relationships with are not the people we confide in. We will never tell employees or customers about our financials and our accountants won't cushion us emotionally when it comes to the books. Eventually even a spouse, family members and close friends get tired of hearing about the business. Over time, everything that seems mind blowing or life changing to the entrepreneurs becomes wearisome to their support centre.
Having a mentor who plays a supporting role is important. The ins and outs of finances as well as dealing with the unknown, can sometimes feel like too much for one person's shoulders.
2. Better Business Decisions
It has been proven statistically that two heads are better than one. When a team takes a test, versus an individual taking a test by themselves, the team almost always scores higher. The same reasoning can extend to business decisions. The decisions you make with your mentor will be better decisions. For instance, you may forecast your sales but your mentor may forecast them differently. The average of your forecast is often closer to the actual number.
3. Seeing the Forest for the Trees
An outsider can view a situation more objectively and more clearly. They aren't emotionally invested and they won't get bogged down in the details.
In larger companies consultants, external hires and shuffling of upper management are all tactics used specifically to gain this objective view. Mentors are a great solution for the small business owner who cannot see their business clearly since they work in it every day.
4. Shortening the Learning Curve
Mentors are often selected based on matching your needs with their experience. In most cases they are either retired, or entrepreneurs and business executives who have decided to help other entrepreneurs.
Having a mentor who has insights and information gained from their past experience as well as existing contacts in their back pocket, will help you shorten your learning curve significantly. If you don't know how to do something, you won't have to face as much trial and error. Just ask your mentor who has already been through it!
5. Learning to Play Nicely with Others
Working by yourself and being your own boss has its upside. You have control . You make decisions and move forward without worrying about the opinions of others. However, sometimes this independence can erode important traits such as being humble, listening, and being a team player. Eventually you will need to work with investors, customers, and suppliers, so you need to remain a team player. Working with a mentor can keep, and even enhance, this skill set.
6. Getting More and Better Referrals
Your mentor believes in you. They have to otherwise they would not spend their time helping you. This makes them part of your fan club, and they will tell people about your business.
You choose a mentor because they are respected in your industry and many people turn to them for advice.
When your mentor tells people about your business, people will respect their positive opinion of you. Referrals are the natural next step.
7. Making the Best Practices Stick
When you problem solve with your mentor, you are learning how to handle similar challenges down the road.
Learning by reading and video has at best a 20% retention rate. Working with a coach or mentor raises your retention levels to 75% or more and ensures you are more prepared for the future.
So what would be a good mentor's first recommendation? Get a mentor!
Carla Langhorst is president and CEO (co-founder) of Small Business Solver. Her corporate as well as entrepreneurial ventures include marketing at Coca-Cola Canada, sales at McCain Foods, sales and training development at Canadian Pacific Railway, franchisee training and sales execution at Director of Operations at The Nines Consulting Group. She is an instructor at Humber College in the Continuing Education department and a volunteer at the YMCA Business Development Centre.