You often see articles calling on people to get a coach for their business skills, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, I’ve found that a mentor can be far more useful than a coach even though there’s much less emphasis on getting a mentor.
I guess that’s mainly because most mentors give their time willingly, and thus, they don’t need to advertise. So, let’s talk about mentors and why you and every business person needs one.
What Does a Mentor Bring to Your Life?
Life without a mentor is much harder work. A mentor has been where you are, has seen the struggles that you face, and most importantly, has survived and thrived.
The first big gift of a mentor is information and knowledge. When you’re starting out, you have no clue as to what a business plan should look like or how to do a profit and loss forecast. A mentor can show you exactly what to do and how. It’s a real shortcut to getting up to speed and fast.
Mentors Shine a Mirror on You
The worst person to see your faults is you. When you run your own business, this is deeply perilous. Your staff can’t tell you what’s wrong with you; that’s not how hierarchies function. So, you need someone who can be brutally honest and guide your future development.
That’s a mentor. My first mentor began with a “don’t ask, don’t get” speech. She saw that I needed the courage to ask for things that helped me. She helped me realize that it was collaboration with others that was going to help me build my brand.
In turn, that helped me see that collaboration was a virtuous circle. Not only did I get to learn from my peers, but working with them led to them promoting me.
Sure, people say “no” when I ask sometimes. That’s life, but a mentor helped me toughen up to realize that’s not a problem. There is always a “yes” lurking around the next corner if I have the courage to journey on.
They Help You Create the Real You
Your mentor will help you design your own goals and objectives, then they’ll stand back and watch how you progress towards them. They will offer encouragement and guidance if you need it, but the work is all yours and so are the rewards.
This was invaluable for me. I didn’t become my own boss to be somebody else’s virtual employee. My mentor empowered me to be the best I could be, and I am so grateful for that.
Use More Than One Mentor
Mentors, as I said, bring information and knowledge, but it is unlikely that you’re going to find one person who is the source of all the knowledge you need. Mentors are human not Yoda.
I’ve drawn mentorship from a fashion business guru, an export mentor with the Export Council of Australia, and from many other sources. Each of them has helped me overcome specific problems.
Don’t Be Afraid to Pay
It’s fine to get free mentorships, and I find there are many good business people out there willing to help. However, if you can’t find that help when you need it, pay for it. The experience someone has doesn’t fall in their lap, so sometimes, you’re going to need to shell out a little to take advantage of it.
If it solves a specific business problem; a paid mentorship will provide returns far greater than you paid for it and cost you less than waiting around for a freebie would have done.
What to Look for in a Mentor
Everyone needs a mentor. So what should we look for in a mentor? I recommend that you choose someone with the right experience and skills, who you can find rapport with, and who will straight talk while they support you.
To find your mentor, ask around or contact your local business center, which can be very helpful.
Everyone can succeed but most of us can’t do it alone. My business is where it is today thanks to the people who helped me become who and what I am.
About the Author
Maria Murphy is a fashion designer and business owner. She sells her vintage-inspired clothing with references of pop culture, kitsch and color through her company, Sarsparilly.