You can learn a lot by finding a mentor in your field, whether you’re just starting on your business ownership journey or you’ve been building your company for several years. Imagine having someone to turn to when the stresses of entrepreneurship get to you. What if you could avoid the pitfalls inherent in any new venture?
Researchers found that 92% of small-business owners felt mentors directly impacted whether their companies thrived. However, a mere 22% actually had advisers when they first started.
Finding a mentor early in your entrepreneurial career may mean the difference between success and failure. How can you avoid many of the pitfalls you’ll land in if you don’t have someone to guide you past them? Here’s how to embrace the idea of mentoring and take your company and your life to the next level.
1. It opens new opportunities.
Finding the right mentor opens new opportunities for you. An experienced professional has connections from their time in the industry. They can introduce you to people who will take your business to a new level. These people have resources and contacts you simply can’t find on your own without years of effort.
You need a mentor who isn’t your competition. Ideally, they are retired without family in the industry. Otherwise, look for someone in a related field who doesn’t compete, such as an Indian fusion restaurant offering advice to a local Italian eatery.
2. You can work with a SCORE mentor.
SCORE is the largest organization of volunteer mentors. The nonprofit organization helped start 45,027 businesses in 2020. Small-business owners who receive mentoring from SCORE volunteers receive higher revenue and grow faster than others.
You can find a mentor in three ways on our website. Request a match based on your personal needs, or search for someone in your industry and choose the best fit. Another option is to visit your local SCORE chapter and tap into members’ expertise.
The best thing about the SCORE mentor program is it is free to everyone. Business coaches cost thousands of dollars for a few weeks’ worth of input. SCORE offers a similar service at zero cost.
3. You can avoid common pitfalls.
A mentor helps you avoid common pitfalls in starting and running a business. People with experience understand the mistakes they made and how to avoid them. They can spot an error in an instant and offer a solution.
You may want to tap into advice from more than one mentor and across multiple fields. For example, seek one mentor for financial advice, another for customer service feedback and one for information on handling supply chain issues.
4. You can develop new skills.
Anyone can call themselves a mentor, but the best ones teach you how to complete new tasks. You should walk away from every meeting feeling as though you’ve learned something new. Look for someone who knows more than you do about multiple topics. They should be the smartest person in the room.
Where can you find the best mentors for your industry? Start with organizations in your field. Go to meetings and talk to the people there. Who is intelligent and has experience? Approach them and ask them to guide you.
In addition to SCORE, you can also try your local chamber of commerce, university professors and professional organizations.
5. You can embrace the sounding board.
It’s crucial to have someone who truly listens and understands your concerns as a business owner. You can vent to your best friend or mom, but they don’t fully grasp the trials of running a company. A mentor has gone where you have before and knows the list of potential solutions.
Wei Xing of Danaher credits his success to the mentors in his life. “Every month, I share the challenges I’m facing in managing my team or serving our customers, and [my mentor] gives me advice on how I can navigate them.”
Don’t just work with the first person who offers, though. Find someone who is the right fit for you and your business
How to Approach a Potential Mentor
Once you find someone you think would be a great mentor, build a relationship with them. Invite them to lunch or take them to dinner. Once you’ve made a connection, explain how much you admire what they’ve accomplished and ask if they’d be willing to mentor you.
Take the dive into mentorship with the help of SCORE mentoring, a free service offered by SCORE for anyone who is interested in starting their own business. Members are trained to help as counselors, advisors and mentors who can help you find what your path to entrepreneurship looks like. Find a mentor to plan, launch, manage and grow your business from start to finish.
This article was written by Shannon Flynn and originally appeared on Score.