Posted on: 18 February 2015
89% of small and medium sized businesses in the UK think that mentoring can help them achieve their objectives. But only 22% are actually using mentors1. We don’t understand the mismatch. Because we think mentors are great. And since they come in all sorts of guises there’s one to suit every small business, wherever they are on their growth journey. We asked a group of mentors to help us explain what mentoring is, what mentors do, the power of mentoring and where to find one.
A business mentor is someone who is in a position you aspire to be in, or they may have taken the path you are on and achieved what you seek to achieve. They are someone from outside your business who acts as a sounding board and offers advice for running your business better.
The relationship you have with your mentor can be as formal or informal as you like – it depends who you are, who they are and what your business needs.
Your mentor can be a relative or a friend, an existing adviser (like your accountant), a member of your business network or a professional mentor who you have sought out to support you.
What does a business mentor do?
Business mentors tend to have had the experiences that you are yet to have. You seek their impartial advice because they can offer a different perspective on the challenges and opportunities that you face, today and in the future.
Many SME business owners have mentors without even knowing it. They are the people they contact when they’re struggling to overcome a barrier. Or when they’re trying to find new ideas to do things differently or better in the future.
The benefits of mentoring in business
Running your own business is time consuming - it’s so easy to get swallowed up by the day to day activities. So when a major opportunity or stumbling block arises, finding the head space and the hours to think it through properly can be impossible.
Terence Mauri: "Mentors provide access to fresh ideas new ways of thinking but most importantly a private space for business owners to talk through issues or challenges."
Sometimes it’s best to find a mentor who has been through what you’re going through. Who can really put their feet in your shoes and offer relevant, specific advice from the sector. Other times, a completely different view of the situation can unearth the right way forward.
Liz Dimmock: "Whether in sport or in business, people face similar challenges - navigating careers, defining success, developing relationships with others or looking to identity and legacy. By working together in mentoring business people and atheletes can offer a different perspective, challenge and support to one another."
Another common issue for small business owners is the 'brick wall'. Perhaps they're stuck on how to develop their product to meet the new demands of their market. Or they're floored by how to deal with their new investor - there's now money at stake and they're worried they won't get it right.
Joanna Pieters: "Everyone has days when they're paralysed by self doubt, and a mentor can help their mentees be sure that the actions they're taking are the most effective ones to get them closer to achieving what they want to"
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