As you open the doors of your business for the very first time you will be struck with the responsibility of making decisions. They will come from every direction and it will seem incredibly overwhelming. Each and every choice you make could have a significant impact on your business, and making the right decision could determine whether or not your company lives to see tomorrow.
Though this may seem daunting, there IS in fact something that you can do about it. Rather than making all of those choices on your own, you should consider taking on a business mentor.
The Role of a Business Mentor
So what is a business mentor exactly? How do they help you? The thing to remember about business is that no matter what you are facing and no matter how hard it seems, there is someone who has been there before, and they have not only faced the challenge; they have actually succeeded. Now there are those who might say that the best way to overcome a challenge is to take it on yourself, but seriously, why do that when someone can just give you the answer and you can move on? A business mentor is exactly the person to do this, and they will help you with no benefit to themselves other than the satisfaction of seeing you succeed.
The Process of Finding a Mentor
Government Based Mentors
Believe it or not there are actually a number of government organizations that will help you to find a mentor, especially as a small business owner. These mentors can be obtained either online or in person:
- SCORE: This organization is sponsored by SBA and provides free, confidential mentoring to the aspiring business owner. This is accomplished through a nationwide network of executives, leaders, volunteers, etc. SCORE is a multipurpose organization, providing mentoring either online or in person, whichever is more convenient for you.
- SBDC’s: This is a small business development center, and it is designed to help small business owners find their footing. With an SBDC you can obtain financial counseling, marketing advice, and other guidance. In fact, some SBDC’s will actually assist with information technology, manufacturing, etc. There is a lot to learn, but there is no reason or you to learn it by yourself.
- WBC: It is recognized that women may have unique needs in business, particularly in the entrepreneurial side of things. A Women’s Business Center will help women to start and grow their small business with the aid of nearly one hundred educational centers. This source of support is particular key if you’re thinking of pursuing one of the much sought after business grants for women.
- Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers: The centers supply veterans with small business development services such as business coaching, consulting and mentorship.
- Minority Business Development Agency: specialized advisors help minority and underserved population company owners gain access to contracts, market research, capital and entrepreneurial consulting and mentoring.
Looking for more? Don’t worry, there are plenty of additional programs out there to provide assistance, all of which can be found at Business.USA.gov.
Taking Advantage of Trade Associations
There are many trade associations that work to offer mentor services which will undoubtedly help you to build your business with little to no problem. Typically, such programs will be conducted through one on one mentoring sessions, and there are also group sessions for those who are interested. For an even better experience, business owners can be connected with several different mentors.
Government Contractors Mentoring
Selling to the federal government is an entirely different task and you might need a special mentorship to participate in such business transactions. The General Services Administration does provide a program which will encourage the larger contractors to aid small businesses in their endeavors.
Inside Your Own Network
They say it’s “all in who you know”, and that is not incorrect. Do you have an old boss that inspired you? What about friends or acquaintances? You can’t be the only person you know that has ever tried to start a business, and perhaps some of your network has been successful. In this case, you should seek advice from within and make sure you follow the words of those who have already made success for themselves.
One on One with a Mentor
Once you do make the leap of faith and start speaking with a mentor, make sure that the relationship ill be mutually beneficial, and of course, mind the following tips:
- Don’t waste the mentor’s time by not being prepared!
- Know how to run your business properly; your mentor should not be running the business or making decisions for you.
- Plan everything in advance. Before your session is actually scheduled, make sure you plan every single thing in advance such as your business goals, obstacles you are facing, or even regulatory requirements that you donít understand. This goes hand in hand with being prepared and not wasting the mentor’s time.
- During the session, make sure that you take notes and review them later on.
- Finally, when the session ends, thank the mentor for their time and assistance.