I would venture to say that we have all had an influential mentor at one time or another. It might have been a teacher who inspired you or a colleague who guided you, but whatever the case, you were fortunate to have the right someone at the right time.
Yes, mentors can make a difference but the funny thing about them is that, typically, they show up when they show up. You don’t normally get to choose when a mentor relationship becomes available. All too often, finding a mentor when you actually want one is not so easy.
But it can be done. And it should be done.
Having a business mentor is one of the best ways to get ahead. He or she can open doors, teach skills and give valuable feedback. There’s no doubt that is a good deal for you. But it is often equally, if not more, satisfying for the mentor as he or she can watch his or her guidance make a difference. It is a chance to give back.
So how do you actually go about finding a mentor when you want one? Here are a few ways:
Ask: Finding a mentor is sometimes the result of simply having the chutzpah to ask someone whom you admire if they would be willing to mentor and work with you. Or, just tell people that you are looking for a mentor. You may be surprised at how willing people are to help. Speak with business associates, friends, relatives, other entrepreneurs, your place of worship or even with online communities.
Look: These days, there are all sorts of organizations to help you hook up with a mentor. Many of these are government sponsored. Here are your best bets:
- SCORE: SCORE
- SBDCs: Small Business Development Centers
- Women Centers: Women’s Business CentersNAWBO) is another smart place to look.
- Minority Business Development AgenciesInitiative for a Competitive Inner City.
- If you are looking for government contracting opportunities, the GSA has a good mentor/protégé program
Call: Your trade organization may have a mentor-mentee program that you can tap.
Pay: If you know someone who knows what you want to learn but who probably would be disinclined to be your mentor, for whatever reason, consider buying their time. Is it ideal? No, but it may still work. For instance, what about approaching that person and offering a fee for a few days of consultation and six months of telephone follow up? Explain that you think he or she could help you get your business of the ground that you respect his/her time and are therefore willing to pay for it. You may be surprised by the response. Especially if you are not in a competing business, you may suddenly find yourself with the best mentor that money can buy.
Discover: Just what are you looking for in a mentor? Here are a few things to consider:
You want someone who shares your vision for your business: It would be a frustrating experience to be mentored by someone who is not on the same page as you.
You want someone who has time: Landing that big fish mentor is worthless if the mentor does not really have the time to help you.
You want someone whom you respect: This means that they have values similar to yours and a track record of success.
You want someone who has connections: A mentor can provide many things and one of them should be the ability to open some new business doors.You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.