Find The Right Mentor For Your Business

Female business mentor giving advise to black entrepreneur.
BY Michael Keenan

A good mentor can help you avoid common mistakes early on, solve troublesome problems, and offer up valuable connections and advice while helping you realize your full potential as a person.

What is a business mentor?

A mentor is someone who has priceless experience that you don’t have yet; they have made all the necessary mistakes on the road to success, learned from them, and are willing to pass on lessons.

A mentor doesn’t just have a good grasp of the specific knowledge you need to succeed, they also possess an intuition developed over the course of many years doing what you hope to do, and their knowledge can help you confirm, abandon, or shape some of your own business instincts.

A mentor helps you find your best self-faster than time alone would allow. Mentorship occurs naturally in nearly every field. But in the world of business, especially, you’d be hard-pressed to find a success story that didn’t involve a mentor or three along the way:

• Warren Buffett credits Benjamin Graham with helping to shape him into a savvy investor.
• Richard Branson says his uncle Jim taught him how to harness his eccentricity into entrepreneurial endeavors.
• Oprah Winfrey recognizes the influence that poet Maya Angelou had on her, not just through her writing, but as a friend and mentor.

In fact, according to a survey of over 180 business owners conducted by UPS, 70% of the entrepreneurs that underwent mentoring had businesses that survived for five or more years. That’s double the rate of businesses that didn’t have the advantage of a mentor.

According to data compiled by the National Mentoring Day organization, 55% of businesses also feel that mentoring has a positive impact on their profits.
Perhaps most important to note is that a mentor isn’t a consultant. A true mentor won’t charge you a fee for their advice. Nor will they do the work for you. A mentor, in an ideal situation, becomes a valuable friend. They see you as a good investment of their time because they see value in you as a person, and vice versa.

That’s because mentorship is part of a cycle of good karma that involves giving back to those who would walk a similar path because someone did the same for you.
Anyone who’s achieved some success in life will likely reflect on their journey and wish they knew back then what they know now. And while time traveling is off the table, imparting those experiences and lessons to the next generation is a nice alternative.

Qualities of a good mentor

When you’re looking for the perfect mentor for your start-up or to reach specific career goals, there are a few traits you’ll want to consider.

• Is a good listener.

A trusted adviser should be a good listener. It would be hard to give you guidance without listening to your entrepreneurial challenges. Good mentors know the balance between listening and giving the right advice during a mentoring session.

• Questions everything.

My mentor, Steve, was constantly challenging me by questioning my thoughts and statements. It was kind of annoying sometimes. But little did I know he was showing me the right way to think outside the box and become a good mentee.

• Is willing to share skills and expertise.

A good mentorship relationship should be honest and transparent. Look for a mentor that treats the engagement as a two-way street, with both of you sharing knowledge, experiences, and skill sets.

• Takes an interest in your professional and personal development.

A good mentor doesn’t need to know everything about your personal life, but they should help you set goals in life and tie them into your profession.

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