Should you have a mentor?
It is well recognised that mentoring is a very helpful service to those who are mentees, but it can be beneficial to both parties.
Some governments, including the UK, run Mentoring schemes, often allied to loans made to new or young company. Some schemes allow young companies access to vouchers to “purchase “the services of the mentor, which puts them in the driving seat and allows them to set the criteria. In other schemes the agency allocates the mentor, and this can lead to high levels of rejection of mentors.
The quality of mentors in these schemes can vary enormously, although often they have undergone some form of training .In some circumstances they do not have to be accredited in any way, and do not have to have run a business. Sometimes they have only run a failed business. This in itself doesn’t mean they won’t make a great mentor, as they will have experienced the problems their mentees are facing, and can advise on how to avoid the pitfalls.
If you are a mentee, you may feel you want to select someone who understands what you do. But actually sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is helpful, and they will force you to revaluate, or at least justify, some industry accepted standards.
How does mentoring work
Traditionally business people mentor each other. Many business people set up an informal mentoring group of a handful of people they know and admire from within their peer group. They use this group to talk through their problems, probably one-to one, and offer each other information, advice and guidance, and importantly, their contacts.
“It’s not what you know, but who you know “
This mentoring may well be two way. It is really important to have someone else to talk things through with. Sometimes the simple act of verbalising the situation allows you to start to unravel a problem that has been going round in your head for a while.
It is impossible to put a price on the value of a mentor. You establish an informal team of advisors who can act as a sounding board for you. They will be a group of people, probably with different strengths and expertise, who can offer you quick answers and practical, effective advice, with solutions to your problems.
They will coach, assist and make suggestions, sharing their experiences, offering proven solutions. This will give you the confidence to move ahead, planning and executing your strategy, knowing it has been discussed, validated and developed by a team of likeminded peers with your best interests at heart.
Another set of eyes is truly invaluable. We tend to take the status quo for granted, but a mentor may challenge the very basis of your business set up, and lead you to streamline your processes and systems.
In return you will provide the same service for them, or their children or successors in business.
Who can be a good mentor for you?
Your mentor does not have to be from the same business sector as you. Many business principles, and therefore skills, are transferable. Anyone who can manage a business effectively, can manage a completely different one. All that is required is product knowledge, and you have that. So maybe fresh eyes are a good idea?
Maybe they have skills you don’t have. It is a generally accepted principle that there are three areas of expertise in business-Product, Marketing and Finance. Most people have expertise and ability in two of those areas, few people excel at all three. So make up the shortfall with a mentor with expertise in your weak area.
So take a look around you. Who do you admire, and are able to approach to suggest an informal mentoring arrangement. Maybe suggest a chat after work over a drink or a cup of coffee, use the opportunity to air a few issues you want to discuss with someone, then thank them for their input.
Suggest you meet again the following week or month, and say you would like to bounce a few ideas off them. Ask if they have any problematic issues to discuss.
You have a mentor!!