When you’re an entrepreneur starting your own business, you’re pretty much on your own.
Your friends and family members may not understand the level of commitment it involves, and your employees don’t have to worry about every little aspect of the business like you do. If you have partners, they might be new to the game, just like you.
Though it may seem like you’re in a lonely position, help is out there in the form of mentors.
Mentors are important to have for a number of reasons. They can guide you as you navigate establishing and running a small business, give you advice, and warn you about setbacks and mistakes they have made. Mentors can also provide you with honesty and insider information that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. They have invaluable experience that you can hear about and take into account as you grow your business.
If you want to find a mentor, here are a few ideas as to where to start.
If there is someone in your community whom you admire, ask him or her out for lunch. Do your research beforehand so that you come up with unique questions that can’t be answered elsewhere.
For example, don’t ask obvious questions that you can find answers to on a LinkedIn profile or company website. Instead, come up with unique queries that are relevant to your life. If you’re having trouble with employees, ask how he or she dealt with that. If you want to learn about where your industry is headed in the future, ask his or her opinion.
Always pay for lunch, and send a thank you note to your mentor within 24 hours of your meeting. If you want a reason to keep in touch, contact your mentor when trade shows or events in your industry are going on in your town and ask if he or she will be there. When you took a piece of his or her advice and it worked out well for your business, let him or her know how grateful you are.
If you would rather find a mentor in a more formal fashion, try a website focused on small business mentoring.
SCORE, an organization for small business owners, offers advice and mentorship. Simply go to their website, search through their directory, and request to connect with a suitable mentor. You can either chat with one online or find one in your community. The site features a number of different industries including media and communications, construction, arts and entertainment, retail, health care, and hospitality.
A similar organization that provides mentors is MicroMentor, which partners with Dell, Sam’s Club, and HP, among other large businesses. On MicroMentor, you create your profile, send messages to possible mentors, and start chatting.
In cities throughout the country, you can locate small business development centers sponsored by an association called America’s SBDC.
Stop into one of these centers and ask if they can connect you with mentors in your community. Or, if a possible mentor is planning to speak at one of their events, attend it and link up afterwards.
If that seems intimidating, shoot him or her an email the following day saying how much you got out of the speech and then see if you can ask him or her a few questions.
Maybe you have no idea whom you would like to be your mentor. In this case, you can become a part of a LinkedIn group in your industry, and then look at the conversations going on within it. Who is posting the most useful content? Who is posing thought provoking questions? If you asked a question on your group, who replied with the best answer? Use these conversations in the group as a starting point in your communication with a possible mentor.
Want to learn more about what it takes to run a successful business? Join Build a Stand-Out Business with Tara Gentile right here on CreativeLive.