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Is a business mentor worthwhile – or is it like trying to find a needle in a haystack?

Business Mentor“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby

The opportunity to learn from a business mentor “can” do more for a small business owner than any course, educational program, or degree. Being a mentee means you get the benefit of first-hand experience, without having to make all the mistakes yourself.

There are, in fact, a host of reasons why a well-matched mentor is an invaluable asset for an entrepreneur. You will have someone you can trust and confide in, lean on for advice, bounce new ideas off of, and get help refining your business plans.

However, we see clients use so called expert “business coaches and business mentors” all the time and we honestly don’t know what the client gets out of it. Their revenue doesn’t increase, their business doesn’t change, the mentor continually asks us to explain the financial reports, and yet the mentor charges 3 times what we do.

“So is finding the right mentor like finding a needle in a haystack?  Sometimes, you end up with a prickly cactus, and not a flourishing business.”

Before the frustration sets in, here are our top tips to finding the right mentor and making sure you don’t come out of the relationship second best.

1. Spend the time to find the right fit

The first step to seeking out a mentor is to know the kind of guidance you and your business would most benefit from, right now. And how best you work.  Do you need someone in person, do you prefer a Skype/virtual session. Do you want to commit to multiple sessions, would you like a one off consultation?

For business owners in the early start up stage, someone who can provide advice for surviving the first few lean years, and someone you can touch base with more often, may be the perfect fit.

In this scenario finding a mentor with experience in your industry is a plus, but not absolutely necessary (which can make your search for a mentor a bit easier).

If you’re in a highly specialized field (like IT), if you’re running a business in a niche market, or if you’re at the point where you’re ready to scale, you’ll likely want to narrow your search to a more selective pool of mentors with pertinent experience.

2. Work out what you actually need help with, your biggest pain points

Saying you need help with “everything” is most likely too broad. Narrow down your biggest pain point right now that is stopping your business from gaining momentum and moving forward. Then you need to find a mentor who can provide expert guidance in that area.

Looking to launch an online course, then seek out someone who has done that and done it well (ie. if you don’t like their sales pages and look of their online course they might not be the right fit).  Looking to launch an online store, then look for someone in the product space who is kicking arse.  Looking to upskill and understand the financial direction of your startup and plan the cash flow for the next 12 months, then look for an experienced financial coach (um….that would be us !).

“But looking for a business mentor who is an expert on absolutely everything – in my opinion, you are looking for a unicorn. And we all know unicorns don’t exist.”

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before committing

Start your search for a mentor in your current network. Think about who you know through your previous jobs, the local business community or the other business associates that you work with already.

Your social media networks can be a great place to find a mentor, too.  You never know who might be out there, just on the periphery of your social network, by one or two degrees of separation. But keep in mind, social media also gives you opinions from people you don’t know, so are they giving you the best advice for your exact needs?

So don’t take other peoples opinions purely on face value.  The best mentor for you might not be the same as someone else as we all learn differently.  So when you narrow down the field of potential mentors, ask them questions. Some hard hitting questions.  Ask them about their results, how they work, for testimonials, for how they think they can help you.  If they can’t answer those questions, keep searching. You haven’t found the one yet.

“To get the most of out of your mentoring relationship, and to demonstrate how valuable your mentor’s help has been, be sure to follow up on your progress. You need to track and measure your return on your investment.”

A business mentor will appreciate hearing how you’ve put their advice to work, your milestones and successes, and the goals you’d like to work on in the future. Acknowledging your progress will help you stay motivated, too, by seeing how far you’ve come, and how close you are to smashing out your intended goals.