Posted: Thu 15th Oct 2020
One of the most common questions I get asked by Enterprise Nation members is 'how do I find a mentor to help me start and grow a business?'
Please read on for my four-step reply!
Know what you're after
Before looking for a suitable candidate, assess what it is you're really after.
Do you want a sounding board? Someone to whom you talk out loud with your challenges and opportunities and formulate your own answers as they listen? Or do you want someone to tell you how to run the business?
These are quite different requirements and will lead to different people. The sounding board is a good listener, while the guiding coach is more of an action-oriented adviser.
You'll also want to think about whether you're prepared to pay for the services of a business mentor, or if you're after conversation or advice for free (or in exchange for a cup of coffee/pizza/glass of wine.)
The answer to this will influence where you look. Know what it is you're after, and what you're prepared to pay, before starting the search.
If you've identified that an industry expert offering practical tips is what you're after, find them by attending industry events or getting involved in interest groups on LinkedIn.
If you're looking for more of the sounding board mentor, the chemistry has to be right, so better to meet this type of person face to face and build the relationship from there.
There are thousands of experienced executives and entrepreneurs who have the potential to become mentors, and programmes such as the Mayor of Birmingham's Mayor's Mentors are focused on expanding the size of the mentor pool. Tap into them to keep updated.
This step is primarily for business owners who have decided to pay for the services of a business mentor.
As with any commercial relationship, you'll want to set targets on what you expect to achieve.
Agree how often you'll speak (will this be in person, via video, on the phone?), for how long will the relationship last, and what outcomes you expect. Ideally write this down in the form of a mentor agreement, so expectations are clear from the outset.
In my own experience, I've found that mentors are not for life! As the business – and indeed your own leadership skills, develop – you may find it's time to move on and find another business mentor with a different outlook.
Hopefully your first mentor experience, and the above steps, will stand you in good stead to make one wise move after the next.
Help to Grow: Management
A government programme to help 30,000 business leaders improve productivity and growth. Includes a 90% funded, 12-week training course then a period of one-to-one mentoring from experienced business leaders and mentors.