Last time I covered the acronym “BUSINESS”. The post received a few good comments so this time I’ll cover: Mentor
All businesses need mentors. Whether their owners are prepared to admit it or not is a different matter. I’ve come across people who are determined to do it themselves and shun any form of advice given to them. We all need someone that we can turn to for advice and help at different stages of our business development. It is the business owner who doesn’t admit that and make use of such mentors that makes life that little bit harder for him/herself. Mentors come in different guises and sometimes having a narrow view of what a mentor is, will restrict the help that can be received and utilised.
Enterprise boards. Love ‘em or hate ‘em they have a fantastic bank of information, courses and mentors on hand to help businesses of all sizes. They are usually one of the first ports of call for any budding new business owner as well as the troubled one who badly needs help and fast. The quality and service provided by such boards is second to none in Ireland as they often provide their services at subsidised rates too which makes them affordable to most businesses. Every county has one, so there really is no excuse for not tapping into this resource.
Non business mentors are usually the friend and family kind. Everybody likes to give advice, and new business owners are often soft targets for some well-intentioned advice. Some can have some really sound advice and others really bad. There are those that just seem to have a wealth of really good life experiences that are worth listening to and tapping into now and again. Just because they don’t run their own business does not mean they don’t have sound practical tips. I’ve been given some really good advice from people that don’t run businesses, yet do manage people on a day-to-day basis and that advice has been invaluable to me.
Trial and error. Don’t give up because you don’t happen to like the mentor you’ve been assigned. I’ve recently heard of three people who were assigned mentors from different public bodies. The first of them had a really bad experience and felt like they had been given a bum-deal, yet they didn’t request a new mentor because they were afraid to do so. The second got a mentor that they felt didn’t listen to them, made plans for their business without consulting them about it and they immediately went back to source and requested a mentor who would mentor and not dictate to them. The third got a mentor who listened from the outset, questioned the client to find out if they were suitable for them before continuing to mentor them.
Over the counter mentors is what I call those that hire out their skills. These are usually people who have developed and honed the skills they are mentoring on over the years and not only can they “talk the talk” they have usually “walked the walk” and got burnt along the way, licked their wounds and come back better and stronger. Now they offer their services for a fee and what you are paying for here is that expertise so that you don’t get burnt too. A lot of these mentors are worth the fees they charge for the knowledge they impart. Many of them can also be found on the speaking circuit and paying to hear them speak is often cheaper than hiring them in person.
Realistic expectations of what a mentor can help you with will make a huge difference on the effect that they will have on your business. Remember they are there to help and advise you in the running of your business, they are not there to run your business for you. Often new business owners can feel intimidated by the experience their mentors have and can have a “doe in the headlights” attitude and not listen properly. However once past that they do find that they have a fantastic resource to tap into. Mentors use their time wisely, don’t waste yours.
Have you had a really good mentor that has helped you to get where you are today in your business? How did they help you? What do you do differently as a result?