Wouldn’t it be nice if someone handed you an instruction manual when you started your business? Right before you open your doors someone says, “Oh, wait, you forgot to do this or that…here’s the small business 101 manual so you will never mess up again!” Instead of wondering what to do all the time you could consult page fourteen and all your problems are solved.
Unfortunately that’s not the reality of starting a small business. However, there is one thing you can do that’s almost as good as having a step-by-step manual: find a mentor to help you out!
Tips for Finding a Business Mentor
Finding a solid business mentor can mean the difference between a struggling and a thriving business. No matter if you snag a business expert, an industry professional, or simply someone you know, getting outside advice can help your business grow tremendously. Here are the first two steps to get started:
1. Know Your Business Needs
Finding a business mentor is a little more complicated than it seems. There’s a lot to consider before you send your first cold-email or make your first phone call. One of the first things you should ask yourself is what you need out of the relationship.
The last thing you want to happen is to approach someone you admire and not have any idea how they can help you. You can’t just tell someone “help me with my business” because that doesn’t really tell them your pain points or challenges.
For example, you may need guidance on how to acquire customers, maintain a marketing budget, findi a niche audience, or any number of other issues. Try to whittle your business challenges down to what you’re having the most trouble with so you don’t waste your mentor’s time.
If you need help isolating a niche, for example, know the particulars of your woes. If you’ve already tried a few niches and they didn’t work, don’t leave this information out. They didn’t work for a reason, and every piece of info can help you and your mentor figure out how to get you on the right track.
2. Find the Right Business Mentor
Isolating your business challenges can also help you find the right mentor. Just because you can bring in the big guns for your issues doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Also, you don’t want to bring in the completely wrong person – if your problem is with finding a target niche, a mentor who specializes in financial challenges won’t necessarily be able to help.
If there’s a local trade association that relates to your industry, try contacting them. These associations usually have a list of people that may be willing to help you out. Also if you are a woman or part of a minority group there are similar associations who can assign someone to help you with your unique business challenges.
The Small Business Administration is another great agency to contact if you need help finding a business mentor. Each state has a list of people who can come in and get you started on your entrepreneurial journey. Again, make sure you know exactly what you need so you can get the mentor who can help you the most.
Don’t be afraid to contact someone in your own network, either. Most small business owners know it usually takes a village to raise a successful company and are willing to help. Also, don’t assume just because you have one mentor already you can’t get another – remember, everyone has their specialty.
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