Is a business mentor worthwhile?

Is a business mentor worthwhile? A man and woman discussing while looking on white tablet computer“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby

The opportunity to learn from a mentor can do more for a small business owner than any course, educational program, or degree. Being mentored means you get the benefit of first-hand experience, without having to make all the mistakes yourself.

There are, in fact, a host of reasons why a well-matched mentor is an invaluable asset for an entrepreneur. You’ll have someone you can trust and confide in, lean on for advice, bounce new ideas off, and get help refining your business plans.

Read on to learn how to connect with a mentor and get the most out of a mentor-mentee relationship.

Finding the right fit

The first step to seeking out a business mentor is to know the kind of guidance you would most benefit from, right now.

For business owners in the early start up stage, this may be someone who can provide advice for surviving the first few lean years. This should also be someone you can touch base with more often. In this scenario finding a mentor with experience in your industry is a plus, but not absolutely necessary. This can make your search for a mentor a bit easier.

If, on the other hand:

  • you’re in a highly specialized field (like IT)
  • you’re running a business in a niche market
  • or you’re at the point where you’re ready to scale

you’ll likely want to narrow your search to a more selective pool of mentors with pertinent experience.

Where to look for a mentor

Start your search for a mentor in your current network. Think about who you know through your previous jobs, educational history, professional associations, and the local business community.

Your social media networks can be a great place to find a mentor, too. Be sure to get the word out via your LinkedIn groups, the Twitterverse, and Facebook. You never know who might be out there, just on the periphery of your social network, by one or two degrees of separation.

Another option is to search for organizations in your area—like Australia’s International Business Mentors—that help match up business owners with trained mentors.

Alternative mentoring opportunities

Let’s face it: all business owners are busy people. And although it’s most beneficial to meet with a mentor consistently, doing so in person on a regular basis can be a challenge for both parties.

For some mentors and mentees what works best are video conferencing chats. Other options to consider are “flash mentoring” via quick lunch hour sessions, or connecting with a mentoring group that meets online. If you’re willing to pay to work with a mentor, a group scenario can also help reduce costs. 

Final thoughts

To get the most of out of mentoring be sure to provide feedback. This will also demonstrate how valuable your mentor’s help has been. A business mentor will appreciate hearing how you’ve put their advice to work, your milestones and successes, and the goals you’d like to work on in the future. Acknowledging your progress will help you stay motivated, too, by seeing how far you’ve come.