As a small business owner, remember that it is okay to ask for help. Asking for assistance is nothing to be embarrassed about, and it often opens doors and presents new, unexpected opportunities.
Most highly successful entrepreneurs report they asked for help from many different sources as they found their footing in the business world. One of the most effective ways to get professional help is through a business mentor -- someone who has achieved success and can “mentor” or teach you.
What exactly is a business mentor? Webster defines a mentor as a “wise and trusted counselor.” From a small business standpoint, a mentor should be someone who will provide guidance and advice. You will want to select a mentor who has achieved a certain level of business success and is willing to share their experience and expertise.
Your mentor should also be a person you can relate to and someone you want to emulate. On the flip side, your mentor should never dominate or take control of your business. If you sense this happening, then this mentor is not the right match for you and your business.
Locating the Right Mentor
How can you find a business mentor? Connect with individuals who are enjoying success. Start by asking other small business owners if they have a mentor. Be proactive in your search.
1.) Take part in local networking groups
2.) Read newspapers and business journals
3.) Search online
4.) Attend seminars and conferences
It can help if the potential mentor is in a similar or complimentary line of work, but this is not absolutely necessary.
When you have identified a potential mentor, then get ready to make your pitch. Ask the business owner if he or she has ever mentored and if they have an interest. Most will be flattered.
However, keep in mind that successful business owners are very busy people, so have an action plan when you approach the potential mentor. You should be prepared to tell the person what you expect from a mentor relationship and how it might benefit both of you.
Check out the SCORE Program
In case you are not aware of it, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a website that can offer great information and support for your business.
In particular, the SBA’s SCORE program is a terrific program for anyone looking for advice or a mentor. SCORE matches up successful former business executives with those just starting out. You can check them out at their home website at: http://www.score.org/
The general SBA website is considerably larger and has all sorts of valuable information, including business regulations and legislation, financing, general small business advice and an online library. They offer small-business oriented seminars in major cities across the country. Some seminars are free while others charge a nominal fee, but you must register ahead of time regardless of any fees. These seminars would be the ideal place to connect with potential mentors.