The great value of mentoring

There’s an underutilized resources out there for small-business & startup business operators: working with a mentor.

There are a few ways mentors help your success.

As an entrepreneur or small-business owner, you may be inclined to take on all challenges, obstacles and complications that prevent your business from succeeding.

A need for independence, and a strong sense of self-confidenec are both driving forces of entrepreneurship.,as well as potential impediments that can lead to a new business’s downfall.

The truth is that, although over 50% of small businesses reported growth in 2016, at least 30% of all new businesses (for startups that number is more like 80%) won’t survive past 24 months. And that number rises to 50% after 5 years.

Early convictions of assured success often fade, unfortunately, in the face of reality.

Thankfully there’s an underutilized resource out there for small-business operators:

working with a mentor.

Not only is there a correlation between mentorship and success, but the ancillary of having someone to lean on professionally are equally compelling.

So why is having a mentor so crucial?

The numbers support it.

As shown in a study by Inc. (largest US trade publication for SME’s and startups) the success rate of mentored SME’s, compared to those without a mentor is stunning:

70% of the mentored businesses survive more than 5 years!

Or double the rate of non-mentored SME’s over that same time period.

There are a few things in the business world that can double your chances of success,but having someone knowledgeable you can turn to for advice is one of them.

A similar study conducted by UPS showed that 88% of business owners say having a mentor to lean on is “invaluable”.

The propensity of using mentors differs significantly between different business cultures: In the US and Asian business cultures it’s common place, especially for startup ventures, but far less so in the European business culture.

A Mentor will help you find weaknesses in your business model

It’s easy to become overly attached to a business plan or to have tunnel vision as to the best way to achieve your goals .

A mentor can help you look past your original scope and see the weaknesses in your model.

As an interviewed serial mentor observed:

‘We tend to defend our believes aggressively, selectively choosing the data that reinforce what we think and explaining away,or outright ignoring, the data that do not. Smart people change their minds when presented with new facts. Only the obstinate cling to opinions in the face of contrary evidence.

The person you may seek out as a mentor may challenge you.

They may force you to reexamine your worldview’

A different perspective may helpyou decide that the time has come for u your company to pivot or for you to upgrade outdated systems for newer technologies.

Constructive feedback, and criticism, are expected form a mentorship, and e accepting that input can pay dividends.

It gives you the opportunity to expand your network.

A mentor may not have all the answers, but he or she should be willing and able to connect you with other people who can help. A good mentor can help you find investors, clients, co-founders, or third-party contractors who provide a valuable service.

It will still be your business

One of the top mistakes that entrepreneurs make with mentors is expecting that the mentor will do the work for them. A mentor can open the door, but you must walk through it.

This goes both ways. Your mentor won’t be “taking over” your business and , in fact, you can take legal steps to protect your inventions or trade secrets, should that be necessary.

The best mentoring relationships often don’t cost a thing — except time.

Good mentors know they should not expect anything in return for their help from a financial standpoint. Similarly, mentees must not squander that valuable commodity and should not waste a mentor’s time by canceling meetings at the last minute or involving them in trivial matters that can be handled by you.

Mentor-mentee relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect, not money.

There is no standard for how often or for how long to meet with a mentor.

As with most non-formal business relations, that’s entirely up to the parties involved.

The only constant across all mentoring relationships is to meet regularly, and to use the time together constructively.

Your mentor is not your lunch-buddy, he or she is an asset, yes, but also a person with his or her own responsibilities who can only budget so much time for you.

If you keep that in mind, your meetings will be fruitful.

There are a number of ways to find the right mentor for you and your venture.

Peers can be mentors, but you can also use government-sponsored mentor programs (like the RVO voucher program for internationalization and subsidized coaching services offered by various universities for startups) and other groups like regional investment corporations, to meet someone new.

Smart SME and startup entrepreneurs know that having an advantage like a mentor can be crucial in staying ahead of the market, and , in some cases, out of bankruptcy.

Look for the helping hand of a mentor to open your mind to new ideas, your address book to new contacts and your business to new opportunities.