It takes a village to build a company. One of the worst mistakes entrepreneurs make is not establishing a supportive group of people throughout their journeys as business owners. In terms of guidance, finding a mentor is vital for success. Additionally, this type of leader in a person’s life provides wisdom and advice through their experience. According to a survey conducted by The UPS Store, “70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years…double the rate of businesses who choose not to have a mentor.”
In other words, business owners and entrepreneurs statistically set themselves up for failure if they do not have a mentor. Despite the fact that business success skyrockets with the help of a mentor, research from Kabagge, a financial tech company, shows 63% of companies’ founders do not have one before opening their doors.
Regardless of your industry, having a mentor is a universal blessing. They link entrepreneurs to a chain of existing knowledge and experience from those on a similar life path. This greatly increases the likelihood of a person’s goal achievement. When this happens, ambitious individuals have a greater chance of using their companies for creating a significant impact on the lives of others.
Below, discover the qualities of a mentor and how to find one or multiple people to serve in this role.
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What is a Mentor?
Understanding the characteristics of a mentor begins by discussing the origin of the word. The first instance of this term is found in Homer’s The Odyssey. While Odysseus is away, Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, visits Odysseus’ son Telemachus. In an effort to avoid detection from his mother’s suitors, she appears as Mentor—the person entrusted with providing Telemachus guidance and advice during his father’s absence. Over time, people began correlating the name Mentor with duties the advisor fulfilled.
Today, business professionals associate the term with those who provide valuable information, guidance, perspective, and advice to entrepreneurs, executives, and high-performing employees.
Why Every Leader Needs a Mentor
Life is a learning process that requires guidance. As new business owners venture into uncharted waters, mentors help steer the ship in the right direction. Compare starting a business to learning advanced algebra. Mastering this subject is best done with the help of a teacher. Through previous knowledge and understanding, mentors save their mentees years of frustration when learning how to build a great company. As students learn these lessons, they’re eventually able to pay it forward by sharing what they learned with others.
Top 3 Reasons for Receiving Mentorship
1. Limit Mistake-Making
When a mentor provides insight through experience, bad decision making that causes mistakes is more easily avoidable. In fact, their advice and guidance help business leaders make significantly better decisions and increase the overall success of a company. Researchers at the Harvard Business Review studied 45 CEOs with mentors. They found that “84 percent said as a result [of mentorship], they have avoided costly mistakes and became proficient in their roles faster. 69 percent said mentors helped them make better decisions, and 71 percent were certain company performance improved.”
People rarely find success without dealing with their own fair share of failures. Because mentors have already traversed a similar path, their experience and knowledge can help others maneuver away from colossal icebergs lurking beneath the surface.
2. Feel Connected to an Inner Circle
Great mentors also enhance a person’s professional network tenfold. This includes making important introductions to valuable contacts. When starting from the ground up, most entrepreneurs likely don’t have the same professional associations as their guides do. Often serving as agents of connection, mentors provide opportunities to bring people together. This type of support offers business owners and leaders a remarkable resource for expanding their network. Furthermore, these introductions can lead to investors, partnerships, clients, and great employees.
3. Secure Emotional Support
Mentors also provide refuge during emotional distress and challenging times in business. Those in top leadership need a safe place for discussing the rewarding, yet the strenuous journey of managing a company. Whether acting as a sounding board or giving advice on serious business decisions, these advisors have a powerful effect on the words and actions of their mentees. In effect, it helps leaders at companies manage stressors and lead from a place of high emotional intelligence.
Qualities to Look for in a Mentor
People don’t all share the exact same strengths. Because of this, individual mentors have unique areas where they provide the most value to those they teach and advise. For this reason, business owners should seek out multiple people for various aspects of mentorship. For example, look for a specific mentor gifted at building team culture and another who can offer advice on scaling the company. Mentors are often people who others want to emulate, so think about what makes this person a strong leader. This helps distinguish their area of mentorship. In essence, entrepreneurs should pair places for improved leadership with their mentors’ strengths.
Overall, the relationship between a mentor and mentee is a one-on-one connection. This person is an encouraging, motivating, and understanding force in a leader’s life. Oprah Winfrey regards a great mentor as “someone who allows you to see the higher part of yourself when sometimes it becomes hidden to your own view.”
Typically, Mentors Serve By:
- Motivating others
- Offering insight and guidance as needed
- Staying emotionally balanced and objective in their opinions
- Encouraging people
- Holding mentees accountable
- Advising on business decisions
- Finding opportunities for connection
- Building trust
- Being transparent and honest
- Providing perspective
How to Find a Mentor
There are a variety of options when finding a mentor. This includes reaching out to respected colleagues, asking a mutual connection for an introduction, or seeking suggestions from friends and family. Additionally, joining a mastermind is also a great way for discovering a mentor. These small groups of like-minded business owners are normally facilitated by business consultants and seasoned business owners. Becoming a part of a group of similar individuals helps people feel less alone and experience a sense of belonging as they navigate entrepreneurship together. While some mastermind groups require membership fees, most of those within localized communities do not. For more information on finding a free local mastermind group, visit this link.
Find a Mentor Online:
SCORE connects small business owners to over 1,200 free mentors. Participants include both active and retired entrepreneurs who meet in person and online. To find the chapter nearest you, click here.
This site organizes local networking events, including those for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Learn more to see events or join a group.
Social networking sites offer tons of free valuable content to people in need of a mentor. LinkedIn links business professionals to one another through one-on-one invitations for connection. Members can also join various groups started by fellow entrepreneurs and business owners. Likewise, the “Groups” tab on Facebook serves a similar purpose. Users can search for words like “mentor,” “mentorship,” “mastermind” and “business coaching” for a list of groups to join and participate in.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) enriches small business owners’ lives through free education and development. When looking for a mentor, search for “Small Business Development Centers” (SBDCs) in your community using this tool. SBDCs support business owners by providing free consulting and training.
Paying Mentorship Forward
Developing as a leader is a constant journey that benefits from a guide. The most successful business professionals realize leadership is a learning experience that requires learned experience from others. This means having mentors in place for sharing their wisdom and knowledge. The beauty in mentorship is the cycle of value and connection. As mentors guide people on the path to enriching and benefitting the lives of others, they teach their students how to step into this role themselves. In turn, this creates an ongoing cycle of helping others succeed.