Everyone who starts their first business lacks experience. To get the much needed knowledge, one can either take the trial and error route – or make a shortcut and find a mentor. But how to find the person who will help you grow your business? Dive in to find out.
What is a business mentor and what do they do?
A business mentor is an experienced professional, who has already created a successful business (often more than one), and who is willing to pass on their knowledge to the next person. A business mentor is there to share specific knowledge, give their insights based on their experience, ask the difficult questions and help their mentees find the right answers. A mentor isn’t someone who does the work for the mentee – a mentor helps their mentees grow and become the strongest versions of themselves through active listening and coaching.
It’s important to know that a business mentor isn’t a consultant – their goal is not only to share their expertise. A mentor is someone who commonly becomes a valuable friend or an acquaintance, someone who becomes involved in your project as if it was their own. The goal of a mentor is to pass on their wisdom and knowledge, give back to the community, and, potentially, help their mentees save some time and trouble by sharing their insights and thoughts. Mentors are also extremely helpful in stressful situations – a good example of that is the case of Intch CEO Yakov, who seeked help after moving overseas. His investors acted as mentors and helped to solve the most critical issues with their network. You can read more on that here.
Qualities of a good mentor
So, by now we know that a mentor is a valuable person for many beginner entrepreneurs. But how to find a great mentor who will help you grow? Of course, when finding a mentor, one should always listen to their gut and find the person that they are comfortable around. However, there are several basic characteristics to look for while searching for the right person:
- They have a proven track of record. By default, a mentor is an experienced professional, and they should have proof of that. It shouldn’t scare you off if they have a failed company in their portfolio – after all, failures are our best teachers. However, they should have successful cases in their resume.
- They have developed critical thinking. A good mentor is someone who has been through a lot – it allows them to see the bigger picture and share it with their mentees.
- They are good listeners. Entrepreneurship comes with a great amount of stress and even greater amount of uncertainty. Therefore, having someone who will hear you out without judgment is priceless while growing a business.
- They care about their mentees’ personal and professional growth. A good mentor is a good teacher, who truly cares for their students’ future. A great mentor has to be able to put their ego aside and let their mentees thrive.
- They share their skills, expertise and contacts. A great mentor is someone who is very generous when it comes to sharing knowledge and contacts. It is no secret that networking is crucial when building a company, so a mentor can act like a bridge to a pool of useful contacts. Additionally, mentors can help their mentees develop their networking skills (we wrote about them here).
Why should you find a mentor?
Finding a mentor can seem like quite a challenge (and it certainly can be), and many would argue that it is better to do everything on their own to become experienced. While this all can be true, here are some arguments in favor of finding a great mentor to help you grow your business:
- Statistics prove that businesses with mentors are more likely to thrive. According to a large small business study conducted by UPS, 70% of entrepreneurs who had mentors for 5 years or more have created businesses that doubled the rate of those who didn’t have mentors on board.
- It saves time. Many business owners state that a tangible benefit of having an access to a mentor is that it saves time that would otherwise be spent on trial and error. And time is our most valuable asset at hand.
- A mentor can provide valuable advice or just be a good listener in times of hardship.
- A mentor can give access to a valuable network of people. Networking can save you tons of time on solving various kinds of tasks (more on that here), and a mentor can give you access to a broader network. So, a mentor can act as a bridge to a community of people who will help you grow.
Where to find a mentor to start or grow a business?
There are plenty of sources where to find a mentor, here are the ones that we find the most reliable:
Your personal network
Never underestimate the power of your network. If you have been working for companies, or you have already been in the start-up field, most likely, you already know someone who can act as a mentor. Yes, it’s understandable that everyone wants someone great for their mentor, but you can always start from the people that you know and then switch if you feel like it.
Reaching out to potential mentors via email is also a valid instrument. If you use it, make sure to write a concise yet powerful pitch on why you chose this particular person for a potential mentor.
Many companies like Mastercard or IKEA offer mentorship programs for their employees to develop a business-minded approach that is valuable for every company. Joining such a program can give you powerful insights and help you grow your network within and outside of the company.
Accelerators or Incubators
As a start-up owner (or an owner-to-be), you can join an accelerator or an incubator. There you will be able to spend time with more experienced business owners – and you are very likely to choose a mentor who will be aligned with your values.
Small business development centers
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are organizations that are created to help beginner entrepreneurs across the country. They act as networking hubs, so you are most likely to find people who are able to become your mentors.
Meetups and networking events
At conferences, meetups and networking events you are most likely to run into people who are helpful to grow your company. You will be able to meet them in person, talk to them and ask them about your experience (most likely, you will be short on time, so it is best to do your research beforehand). Of course, the pandemic cut the amount of offline networking events, but even online you can still find the right mentor for you.
Join a professional association
You can find a mentor by joining a professional association for networking. For instance, if you’re in marketing, you can join the American Marketing Association, where you will be surrounded by the professionals from your field.
Much like professional networking associations, industry centers are highly helpful when looking for a mentor. You will be able to attend events, broaden your network, and, eventually, you will be able to screen the audience for potential mentors.
It’s obvious that your direct competitors won’t give you useful advice on how to grow your business – but your indirect competitors can provide you with valuable information, as long as you don’t step on their toes. It is a not-so-obvious but valuable source of people where you can find a potential mentor.
Find a mentor online
Offline is not the only place where you can find a mentor. With video calls, your mentor can be located anywhere in the world, so it’s worth expanding your search and look online.
LinkedIn, the world’s biggest professional social network, can be helpful for finding a mentor. However, to find a perfect match you must be able to check for chemistry and align your values, and LinkedIn doesn’t provide the instruments for that. But, it can be very valuable for research.
Twitter. Even though the messages on Twitter are limited to 280 symbols, the Twitter threads are places where you can find like-minded people. It is best to follow someone for a while and see what their interests are before asking them to make a commitment and become your mentor.
Forums and chats. Communities online are valuable resources to find the people who can become the needed connections.
SCORE. Believe it or not, there is already an instrument for connecting potential mentors and mentees. SCORE is a social network where you can find existing profiles and choose a mentor for your liking, or you can ask a few questions and let the instrument suggest you a few candidates.
Intch. While social networks lack the needed functions for communication, and special instruments like SCORE limit users on their choice of candidates, other instruments like Intch provide the freedom of communication. Intch is a tool that allows anyone to post a request (such as looking for a mentor or a mentee) and an AI algorithm will come up with 5 people to help with that. The app allows people to connect in a stress-free atmosphere, get to know each other and then let the people decide whether or not it’s a match. Inch is built on the principle of mutual help and support – so it is most likely that there will be experienced professionals who are looking forward to sharing their wisdom and knowledge!
A mentor for a business owner can act as a catalyst for the whole business: a great mentor can help find the right connections, can help spot problems that can become critical at some point and can help with the “helicopter view” on the current situation.
Finding a mentor is challenging because a lot of factors have to be aligned: there has to be chemistry, the mentor has to have the right knowledge and expertise to share and they have to possess the necessary soft skills to help their mentee grow. There are plenty of online and offline tools to look for a mentor, but most of them do not allow you to create a meaningful connection before asking to make a commitment. However, there are newer instruments – like Intch – that can help mentees find their mentors in a stress-free environment.
Join Intch today and start networking!