Mentors and Cheerleaders
I remember when i was 6 years old i was in awe of my mom , and my aunts because they could cook and bake like Martha Stewart. I remember trying to help with baking Christmas Cookies, and i think there was more flour on me than in the cookies…. but as a newbie just starting to learn there was so much to discover. One of the first clear thoughts I had was to respect and listen to those who knew more, had more experience, and could share skills.
I grew up baking with my mom, and came to love those times in the kitchen together. And baking is a skill my mom encouraged, developed, cheered me on with.
Growing a business is a lot like baking. You can see those who are a bit farther down the road, honing their skills at bookkeeping, marketing, market development, and product development. I just love to sit and soak in the experience, ask questions and grow in my knowledge of how to do business based on skills others have honed. Likewise Steve and I have always felt there is a need to allow that knowledge to flow on to others. That model of having someone mentor me, and i in turn mentor someone else is a very successful one. I can list a few people that have taken the time to really help, encourage, direct and foster a new skill.
In an article Miranda Morley offers these reasons to have a mentor:
The biggest benefit of having a business mentor is having someone you can ask questions and get advice. As a new business owner, you are likely to get more advice than you ask for from people like family members, friends and the people who own the store next door. While some of their advice may be sound, your mentor can help you sort out which you should follow while advising you on more complicated business matters that your friends or family would not know how to solve.
Business mentors can help you look at problems and situations from perspectives that you would not have thought of on your own. For example, as a new business owner, you may have trouble looking at your business through the eyes of a customer, potential investor or government official. Your business mentor, who has dealt with these people often, can help you understand how your business will look to these individuals.
Mentors are not like advisers and consultants, who care only about the business venture. Instead, business mentors help you develop your business skills. For example, if your employees are constantly complaining that they don’t understand project directions, your business mentor can work with you to help you improve how you communicate with your staff. This way, you will have a better understanding of how to communicate with your staff both now and in the future.
Owning a business can be stressful and frustrating. As a business owner you’ll often need to vent with someone you trust. Business owners cannot vent to their partners, employees or customers without causing instability in the structure of the business. However, once you vent to a mentor, you can often start the process of working with the mentor to solve the cause of your frustration. For example, if lazy employees are plaguing your business, you may need to vent to your mentor before you can think positively enough about the employees in order to develop a plan to motivate them.
Business mentors can put you in touch with contacts who can help you make your business more successful. The more networking you do, the more people you meet. And the more people you meet, the greater the odds are that you will have someone in your rolodex who can help you solve business problems. For example, your business mentor may introduce you to another of his mentees, an award-winning recent college grad who is looking for an entry level position in web design. Perhaps you are looking for someone to help you design your new company’s website. Thanks to the mentor’s contact, your search for a valuable asset may have just become easier.
In addition to simply giving advice and helping improve your personal business skills, business mentors can prepare you with a library of methods and strategies that you can pull from throughout your career as a business owner. They can not only tell you, from experience, how important it is to create a positive environment and boost morale, but they can also give you strategies for doing so. For example, mentors can help you learn strategies for observing employees to see if they are happy at work, dealing with irate customers or handling financial problems.
Although some mentor-mentee relationships are short-lived, if you hit it off with your mentor, you can foster a long-lasting relationship through which you and your mentor can continue to collaborate for the rest of your career. This will give you the consistency and resources you need to maintain a successful business.
Knowing that you have a credible mentor to turn to can give you confidence when facing difficult business situations. Similarly, good mentors will praise you when you have made good decisions. Praise can enable you to see yourself as a wise and experienced business person. Seeing yourself confidently this way will help you stand your ground when you must defend or stand by your business decisions.
Starting a business is difficult, and many business owners face challenges early in the process. However, many business owners go through the same types of struggles. Hearing first-hand from your mentor about her experiences will help you realize that the struggles you are going through now will prepare you to be a better businessperson in the future.
Mentees are not the only people who benefit from business mentoring. Business mentors also experience benefits thanks to collaborative learning. By helping others improve their business skills, business mentors may improve their own skills. They may be inspired with new ideas, meet new contacts and learn new business strategies from their mentees.
If you are striving to grow your business, find a mentor. If you have need to develop a skill, such as web design, photographing your products, copy writing, web design, find a mentor. People are out there, and willing to share their knowledge. We just need to be willing to receive and act on it.