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How to find the right business mentor

How to find the right business mentor

Posted on:  , 
Author: ATB Business & Agriculture

If you’re looking for advice on running a small business, there’s no better place to look than a mentor. Finding someone who has experience in your industry can help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls business owners often encounter, and can provide you with guidance when you’re not sure which way to turn.

What is a mentor?

“A mentor is someone who will share their wisdom,” says Andrew Patricio, founder and CEO of BizLaunch, “It should be someone who you respect and who has achieved the kind of success you desire. A mentor will teach you what to do, how to do it, and will be supportive through those bad days we all experience as business owners from time to time.”

Specifically, a mentor is able to advise you on business strategy, tough decisions and day-to-day operations—regardless of your industry. “A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be in your field,” Andrew says, “those in other industries can also add value to your business, as they allow you to exchange ideas and think outside the box.”

Who should you look for?

Mentors can be found just about anywhere—if you know what to look for. People you encounter and work with on a daily basis, such as your accountant, lawyer or banker, can provide valuable mentorship thanks to their experience working with entrepreneurs. “People like this can assist you with problems outside your area of expertise. They can also help by connecting you with other mentors who will be able to help you along your journey.”

Before embarking on a mentoring relationship, Andrew also says it’s important for entrepreneurs to be open to being advised by whoever they choose to mentor them. “A good relationship will be two-way—where you’re not afraid to speak your mind but are receptive to input,” Andrew says.

Where can you find a mentor?

Finding a mentor is easier than you may think. Tell people within your network that you’re looking for a mentor, or try joining a small business association—such as your local chamber of commerce—to meet prospective advisers. “You can also find mentors at industry trade shows, on social media and through friends and family,” says Andrew, “you could even consider successful competitors in your field as potential mentors.”

In which areas do you need mentorship?

Depending on your needs, mentors can serve several functions, or several mentors can provide their perspectives on specific aspects of your business. Mentors can be your confidant, your brainstorming partner or a role model for the type of business owner you want to be. But Jeremy O’Krafka, founder of MENTORnetwork.ca, believes that two of the key ingredients mentors provide to entrepreneurs are confidence and accountability.

“By affirming where we're making the correct moves or uncovering a blind spot, mentors enable us to be confident,” Jeremy explains, “in my experience confidence leads to action which leads to results. Mentors also hold us accountable to those things we say we're going to do and, in many cases, don't do. There are a number of critical elements to a successful business and very few entrepreneurs enjoy doing all of them. Having someone to answer to, increases the fulfilment of them."

How often should you meet your mentor?

The mentoring relationship can be anything that you and your mentor agree it should be. Meetings can be formal or informal, and can take place weekly, monthly or even daily. “One of the perks of the technology available to us today is that you don’t have to have a mentor in your city,” says Andrew. “You can interact with them from anywhere through email or by holding regular phone, Skype or Google Hangout sessions.”

However you choose to meet with your mentor, remember that the structure is less important than the dialogue you have before you begin to meet. Be sure to set clear expectations with your new mentor, such as how often you’ll meet and what you hope to learn. “Try and set goals for each meeting,” Andrew suggests, “what topics do you want to cover? Are there any specific areas you need advice on right now? Guiding the conversation can keep your mentoring sessions on task and will help you get more out of them.”

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