This year, you have the opportunity to bring your business to new heights, whether that means more sales, using time more efficiently, a new location, or something else. Books and blogs — this one included — can guide you as you work toward your goals, but there’s no substitute for the focused, one-one-one attention of a mentor.
A mentor can introduce you to new people, help you avoid beginners’ mistakes, and otherwise help you keep your business solvent. In fact, one study shows that businesses influenced by a mentor are twice as likely to survive their first five years as businesses without a mentor. That figure alone makes a convincing case for mentorship.
Stats aside, there are other compelling reasons to find a mentor. For one, mentors can point out any oversights baked into your business model, so you can correct them before they become a problem. Also, you can speak freely around a mentor without worrying about your effect on employee morale.
Where to Find a Mentor
Before you seek out a mentor, first identify what you’re looking for. Tempting as it may be to approach someone super well-known in your community, those individuals might not have much time to spare. Instead, you’re better off looking for someone who’s where you hope to be in two to five years.
Your family and extended social circle are the first places you should look for a mentor. You’re more likely to get a “yes” from an acquaintance who simply needs to deepen their existing relationship with you than a stranger. You might also make professional connections on social media and build them slowly over time, or try to meet people via your local chamber of commerce.
How to Approach a Mentor
Once you’ve found the right individual, approach your potential mentor in person or over the phone and not by email, if at all possible. The first time you reach out, just set up a time to meet for coffee or to chat about career advice — don’t mention mentorship or ask for a commitment right away.
After you meet up or take your longer call and you’re ready to broach the topic of mentoring, be sure that your ask is well-defined. How much time would the other person need to set aside, and how often? Exactly what type of input do you seek — a sounding board for difficult decisions? An accountability partner? If possible, try to find a way that the relationship will be mutually beneficial.
When you get your answer, give an enthusiastic thanks for a “yes” and be polite about a “no.” Either way, congratulate yourself on taking an important step toward building a healthier, more promising business.