Driving Business Value Through Mentorship
SMB owners know how easy it is to become entrenched in the daily grind of a business. With customers to serve, emails to read, and payrolls to process, finding a mentor often fails to make it onto the to-do list.
I recently read an article where business magnate Richard Branson said the missing link between a “promising businessperson and a successful one” is often a good mentor. I’ve always been a strong advocate of mentoring and benefited from some amazing mentors over the course of my career, so I was happy to see Branson’s endorsement for the role mentors play in business success.
A good mentor can help you envision your business from another perspective. He or she can help you find and define your leadership style, business culture and develop better ways to communicate with your team. If you’re just getting your business up and running or even contemplating entrepreneurship, seek out a mentor. Even if you’ve been in business for a while, it’s never too late to find a mentor and benefit from some outside perspective and expertise.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Start close to home – Finding the right mentor doesn’t have to be a long or painstaking process. Take another look at your circle of friends. Does it include any successful business owners? Even if you’re in vastly different industries – for example, you run a bakery and your friend owns a law firm – there’s something you can learn from one another. If your business happens to be the new kid on the block, introduce yourself to more established owners who have been around for a while. Set aside time to reconnect informally on a regular basis and discuss tips and tricks.
- Get social – Social media networks are a great resource for connecting with customers and vendors. It can be an even better resource for finding a mentor. Spend time on sites like LinkedIn and join groups that are relevant to your business. Locate an interesting thought leader and ask about a specific business dilemma. He or she will likely be honored and want to keep in touch.
- Do your part – Share your experiences with less-experienced entrepreneurs who may find your learnings beneficial. You don’t have to know all the subtle nuances of getting a salon up and running in order to counsel a fellow entrepreneur with a passion for beauty – your varied experience alone can provide a wealth of insight for others to learn from. And you might just learn a few things yourself in the process.
I’m a huge advocate of lifelong learning and there are plenty of great resources for budding mentors and mentees. Sites like SCORE provide free mentoring resources for small businesses, and allow you to connect with mentors who have specific areas of expertise. Whatever your goal, a good mentor is the hidden key to long-term success.
Cindy Bates is the Vice President U.S. SMB and Distribution at Microsoft