Small Business Lesson – Finding a Business Mentor©
The Entrepreneur ran a piece entitled “3 Steps to Find a Business Mentor” that outlined how to approach an experienced business mentor and request their assistance. However, the title of the Entrepreneur article should not have been “How to Find a Mentor”, but “What to Say to a Mentor, Once Found”. Nevertheless, the information is sound.
The author, J. Carter made the following recommendations:
1. Focus on the Results – Forget the possessive pronouns and never use “I”, “Me” or “My” to describe your business. Explain the benefits to your customers.
2. What Are the Problems Your Business Solves? – Do you provide a product that fills a need or provides something missing that no one had thought they needed? I’ve mentioned in the past that my partner is a “foodie” and nothing makes him happier than kitchen gadgets. In the last week, he purchased pizza cutter scissors and something that looks like a very sharp hair pick that can grab onions safely so that you can cut them. Didn’t know we needed these kitchen tools but they certainly are very helpful.
3. What Help Do You Need? – Do you know your market? What expertise are you adding to the product or service to address your market needs? Ask for help in what you are missing. Is it finding financial backers, providing organizational expertise in areas like accounting or hiring? What price should you charge for your product or service? Is your business plan viable and will you make money from your efforts?
My partner and I have been at times both a Mentor and a Sponsor to Startups and Small Businesses. The roles sound similar but are actually very different.
Mentors provide advice. The assistance and recommendations that mentors provide can be financial, operational, legal or just plain sharing of experiences that the entrepreneur can use to benefit their enterprise. Here are some of the ways we have mentored.
As mentors, we have facilitated in the creation of business plans and developed go-to-market checklists to ensure our clients were ready to release their product. We helped with the creation of pricing models and breakeven calculations as well as flexible budgets to assist their financial viability.
Sponsors, on the other hand, act on behalf of their client. These are some of our sponsorship activities:
• While sponsors in the financial arena, we have researched financial institutions and banks to provide the best possible home for their business funds. Once found, we advised our clients on the pros and cons of their decisions and introduced them to bank officers to ensure the fit was good. However, the final decision was theirs.
• In operations, we have negotiated for the printing of FDA seals on product labels on behalf of a client’s product. We have negotiated with a company providing custom software on behalf of an executive recruiting agency.
The differences are more than subtle but they are substantial, and both Sponsors and Mentors can benefit your enterprise.
Getting back to the misnamed title of the Entrepreneur’s piece, there are many ways to find a business mentor (or a sponsor). Here are a couple to consider:
The SBA (Small Business Administration) has a program called SCORE. With SCORE having over 300 chapters nationwide, you can receive free business advice by searching by key word, your local zip code or contacting a chapter directly.
Contact trade associations, suppliers, chambers of commerce and professional organizations. Frequently, they can provide good recommendations for mentors, BUT look for reviews, meet with them and see if they will be a good match.
Consider family and friends for referrals. Think about it. When you and your neighbors meet, what do you discuss? You talk about the latest restaurant you or your friends have visited, how happy (or not) they are with their dentist or who does their hair? Ask them if they know of an experienced professional who can help you with your business needs and again, see if it will be a good match.
As always, I look forward to hearing your insights.
For more information on how to conduct business, competitive and market intelligence, as well as learning more about effective market and business development strategies, visit our website and join our mailing list to subscribe to our Newsletter. You can also email us to arrange for one hour of free consulting by contacting us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMS Cloud- 2016©