I have heard a lot recently about being mentored for my fairly new business, but was wondering how helpful a stranger getting involved with its development would be?
The word ‘mentor’ seems to be the ‘in’ thing at present in a business context, and it is a really good question to ask if it would be helpful for you.
Whether you are starting a business, in the process of building one up, or have come to a cross roads and are in a bit of a ‘rut’; as a business owner you will face challenges at every stage. So, it’s reassuring to know that most entrepreneurs tend to go through the same types of struggles on the whole and, in particular, hit similar problems in relation to specific industries. And whilst research and knowledge learnt on the job is vital, it’s a no brainer that industry insights and guidance from someone who has been there and don’t that, would clearly be a bonus. Step in to the ring mentoring and the role of a mentor.
There has been a growth in popularity of Mentoring schemes in both an organisational setting -where more senior partners or employer’s mentor new recruits - as well as in the business arena. In the business context, a mentor is commonly someone with more experience and understanding of your business journey as they have already travelled this path.
So what can a Mentor do?
There is, strictly speaking, a difference between a business consultant, coach and mentor. Although in reality, the boundaries between these various roles are somewhat blurred, an effective mentor will help you find out so much more about yourself and running a successful business.
A consultant is usually hired for a particular project to provide expert technical advice to address specific aspects of the business, whereas a coach is more performance driven and will focus on challenges and areas of development. However, a mentor can give advice and motivate you to improving your business skills, by sharing knowledge and lessons learnt and, in contrast to a consultant or coach, can end up being a long- term friend who shares your business journey. Indeed, according to the Harvard Business Review (July 2020) five decades of mentoring relationship research shows that people who have strong mentors gain numerous professional benefits.
Benefits of a Mentor
Being a Mentee (sounds like a new brand of sweets!) allows you to confide in someone without fear of judgement or negative repercussions. Owning a business can be stressful and frustrating and being able to vent to someone else provides many bonuses, such as:-
The ability to speak to someone you can trust, with confidence in their credibility as they will probably be a successful business person
Providing a successful role model for you
Fresh insights from an objective outsider of whom you can ask questions and get honest answers, to help problem solve
Provide the re-assurance and confidence to make better business decisions
Bring a different perspective on something you are struggling with or trying to make a decision over
Someone who is ‘with you’ on your business journey, can align with your vision and provide creative options to drive the business forward
Experience, which is the best teacher, and may prevent you going through something similar yourself.
In short, you will gain considerably from having a business mentor in terms of knowledge and sage advice, as well as widen opportunities through industry connections and a ‘leg up the ladder’. A recent survey by the UK’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills, found that 94% of SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises) using external support have seen benefits; these firms are more ambitious and have higher relative turnovers.
Benefits to becoming a mentor
Most people see mentoring as a one-way relationship – only the mentee gains. That is simply not true and it is clear that both parties can benefit from the relationship.
Everyone has skills and experiences to share and becoming a mentor is a volunteering opportunity to give back and share knowledge
It can enhance your own understanding of your industry as when you explain things to others, you become better at it yourself
It can develop your leadership and management style and improve your communication and personal skills; both vital business tools
You may actually find yourself learning from the new generation, especially in relation to tech developments and new industry practices
Your own business confidence and motivation will be increased and enriched from the experience.
Lord Young of Graffham, promoting the benefits of mentoring as part of National Mentoring day has said “I had a mentor when I started my business and…..I know as I have acted as a mentor many times, it is very rewarding to both parties.” If you have given it some thought, you may be concerned that it will be too time consuming. Actually, mentoring involves a very brief amount of time and you can control it – be it half an hour weekly or even one hour once a month. The choice is yours.
It would seem that mentoring and being mentored is advantageous for both parties involved and it seems that the questions that should be asked are:
Why don’t you have a mentor and Why haven’t you become one?
For more information about our mentoring services or signing up as a mentor, please go to www.jcommerce.org Jcommerce is a charitable organisation set up to support businesses in the North West Community to economic self-sufficiency and address business challenges that arisen from COVID-19 and beyond.