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Engaging with a Business Mentor: Why it’s so important for Small Businesses

By Yvette Hellyer on June 26, 2018

ABC mentorship

Great mentoring will open doors, set direction and help you achieve your goals.

When you’re in the day-to-day of running your business and fighting fires, it can be hard to keep your eye on the big picture and focus on your goals. Having a mentor helps with this – not to mention giving your business a much higher chance of succeeding!

Just like a business plan, a business mentor helps keep your business on track, challenge your strategy and support you with making tough decisions – all geared towards helping you grow your business.

Mentors also bring new perspective to the table. They can guide you through difficult decisions, offering an experienced point of view that comes from a space not caught up in the detail. Good mentors have been there, done that and seen it all. However, a significant number of entrepreneurs and business owners start their careers and businesses without one. Often to their demise. Here’s why you can’t afford not to engage your own business mentor.

 

Benefits of having a Business Mentor


Expertise

Mentors can offer the subject matter expertise you may be lacking. Ideally your mentor has trodden your path before and can understand what you’re going through. They’ve most likely had successes and failures along the way. Their knowledge and guidance can save you a lot of heartbreak along your journey, as they help you navigate your way around the challenges they’ve already experienced.


Networking

Great mentors are great connectors. They’ll want to introduce you to the right people to open doors for your business - connecting you to the appropriate people when you need them such as investors and customers. A mentor should always be thinking about who they can introduce you to that can help to grow your business. A successful mentor has an unlimited network of people who can benefit your career. Since they are already invested in your success, it only makes sense for them to let you tap into their network of people when the need arises.


Gaining experience not shared in books


Experience is a very valuable asset – and it's crucial to business success. Mentorship is one guaranteed way to gain experience from others. But there's only so much about a person's experience you can gain from books. It's an unstated truth that most authors do not feel comfortable revealing everything about themselves in books. Some experiences may be too difficult to be shared in writing, yet their personal conversation of how they dealt with a challenge can prove the most valuable nuggets of knowledge for inexperienced entrepreneur's and business owners.


You're more likely to succeed with a mentor.

Research of New Zealand Small/Medium sized Business (SMEs) shows that approximately 850 new businesses are being established across the country every month.

Eighty per cent of SME respondents surveyed said that feelings of isolation was more of a challenge for business owners than financial worries (54%), mental and physical exhaustion (50%) and customer attraction & retention (41%).

Nearly 90% of mentors and start up businesses say that seeking assistance was a vital part of owning a new business, to ensure early pitfalls are avoided. Your chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentor. The valuable connections, timely advice, occasional checks can literarily leapfrog you to success.


A mentor gives you reassurance.

A quality mentorship has a powerful positive effect on entrepreneurs and business owners. Having someone who can guide you and share your worries with you (often placating your fears with their years of experience) keeps you reassured that you'll be successful.

Self-confidence is very important to success as entrepreneurs. A high self-confidence contributes significantly to career success - more so than talent and competence. Mentors have the capacity to help business owners tap into their self-confidence and see every challenge as an opportunity.


A mentor will help you develop stronger EQ.

Emotional intelligence is crucial to entrepreneurial success. When a business owner has a more mature and successful mentor to advise them, they are likely to have greater control over their emotional intelligence.
We all know that a quick way to make a business fail is to mix it with emotions or make crucial decisions based on emotional feelings. Situations like this can be curbed as mentors will help show you how to react in any given instance.


Encouragement.

Enduring the consequences of failure on your own can set you back and impact your productivity. In hard times, having a mentor will help you keep your head high. Business owners often deal with depression when they are unable to meet their goals and expectations. The impact of depression on business owners is often underreported, and those without mentors can be susceptible more than most.

A mentor who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business is in the perfect position to give positive and encouraging words of advice to you when things refuse to go your way. And not only do they have the right words to share, they will also have ideas to help you navigate your way to success.


Don’t forget! Having a mentor:

  • Instills discipline
  • Allows you to focus on your business
  • Helps you gain perspective
  • Supports your decision making
  • Helps you know where to go for research or solutions that they can’t answer
  • Helps you identify gaps that may need addressing
  • Helps you find solutions quickly
  • Helps you focus on measuring performance


The business mentorship programme for SMEs starts from just $225(+GST) for 12 months

simple button find out about business mentors

 

A case study article from a NZ Business Mentor. 

Start by Reversing Your Thinking

By Paul Peterson

One of the best ways to really get creative and therefore entrepreneurial – is to practise reverse thinking. There is nothing quite like turning something on its head to see another point of view!

This is the approach that Business Mentor, Paul Petersen, frequently introduces to start-up businesses he works with as a volunteer mentor for Business Mentors New Zealand.

Start-ups can access six months of accelerated mentoring. To begin with, he asks them to ‘really carefully consider their exit strategy.’ 

"It seems counter intuitive but in a lot of cases going to the end helps clients reframe how they want to start,” says Paul. “They need to establish very clear objectives from the get go.”

“Start-ups are motivated to go into business for a variety of reasons,” he adds. “And they aren’t always aware of what’s really motivating them until we ask questions like ‘are you building to sell, to create a lifestyle, or to replace a job?’”

It’s also helpful for start-ups to know their customers and market really well. This might mean researching, talking to others in the industry, interviewing potential customers or trialling the product or service with small test markets. Often a start-up begins with an idea of who their customer is and as planning and activity progresses, finds that the target profile has changed. “It pays to talk to your customer, it will help you define your business,” says Paul.

Paul’s experience with start-ups has highlighted that for most businesses in the early stage of developing their concept, the real effort is in working out what will be the most suitable, scalable, repeatable business model for the owners to establish. This includes clearly defining the problem that is being solved by the business, for its customers.

“You need to be fixing a problem for your market, then your solution has value, “says Paul. “Are you confident that customers will be prepared to pay money to fix the problem, and are there enough people prepared to pay for this problem to be fixed? You need to be sure that you have a real market.”

Paul explains that a start-up business has to operate in a very abstract space to begin with. “You are dealing with the concept for the business and hypothetical scenarios. Start-ups need to be prepared to do quite a lot of groundwork to get the right information together to inform their concept - and to test it. It’s a case of filling the gaps.”

Paul also emphasises the need for start-ups to have a good support system including one or two who are less risk averse – peers, family, networks or mentors.

Mentors with experience in business start-ups offer guidance, act as a sounding board, test your thinking, help you to validate your idea and support you in the development of a robust business plan.

“You can tell quite quickly when a person is serious about succeeding – and I’ll feed the fire, feed the passion. We want to see them succeed because they’ve made a great start,” enthuses Paul.

Footnote:
Many arguments abound on why business owners and entrepreneurs should simply follow their own instincts and gut feelings, but did you know that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs; Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula -- an early investor and executive at Apple; and Eric Schmidt mentored Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.

Topics: Business planning, Programmes, Training, Business Support

Author: Yvette Hellyer

Welcome to the Auckland Business Chamber blog

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