It’s proven that being under the guidance of a mentor can help you improve your chances of succeeding in business. A smart, professional and experienced advisor is a great investment since his or her expertise can be invaluable to your home business.
Mentors will not make decisions for you, but will offer counseling and consultations. Some even work with small business owners for free, all in a day’s work of helping people’s businesses thrive.
So, where can you find such a mentor? There are agencies and organizations that help match entrepreneurs with mentors. Here are some of them:
- SCORE: is the go-to organization for obtaining free and confidential mentoring to owners of small businesses. SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives and has a network of thousands of retired business management professionals, leaders and volunteers. SCORE’s volunteers also act as mentors who share their business skills and prowess through online or in-house counseling.
- Small Business Development Centers: SBDCs are also great sources of providing both aspiring and current small business owners low-cost or free advice and counseling in almost all locations around the country. In fact, there are more than 1,2000 SBDCs located nationwide.
- Women’s Business Centers: WBCs are another way to get counseling, training, and other resources to assist women business owners to start and grow successful businesses. You can find a WBC office near you through the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the U.S. Small Business Administration website.
- Minority Business Development Centers: These centers are part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s efforts to provide assistance to minority-owned businesses. MBDCs operate at an estimated 40 centers throughout the country.
- Trade or Professional Associations: There is a range of trade and professional organizations that run business mentoring programs for business startups. Some of these associations offer one-one mentoring sessions, whether it’s a formal one or in a customary setting. Associations like these also provide group networking opportunities. You can find more information about them online or those that operate in your industry.
- Government Contracting Mentors: If you have business plans of wanting to sell to the federal government, you can take advantage of what the General Services Administration (GSA) offers. GSA has introduced a Mentor/Protégé program that’s aimed to support primary contractors to assist small business owners in government contracting. GSA also enables entrepreneurs to improve their capacities to succeed in government contracts and subcontracts.
- Network within your industry: It’s important that you also have your own network and connections. Who do you know in your industry? Previous employers or friends that are business owners can also provide you handy business advice and counsel. Connect with them on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. You have nothing to lose.
To get the most out of a mentoring relationship, follow these few tips.
- Consistency and organization: Act prepared. Be organized, consistent and serious in your business endeavors. Also, respect your mentor’s time. Nobody wants time-wasters.
- Advanced planning: To benefit from mentorship sessions, plan them in advance. You can either have a one-on-one consultation or have a lunch meeting. It’s preferable to discuss what your business goals are, how to address impediments in business, or get advice on business requirements that you don’t understand. Have more formal, structured sessions that identify the many different factors of starting, developing, managing and growing your business.
- Take notes: Use your mentor’s advice, apply as you see fit, and review progress in your next session.