Sometimes, as a business owner, you can feel like you have no one to turn to for help. You can't always approach your employees for help with big decisions – and they're not likely to have the experience to help you find the right answers. What you can do is develop a relationship with a business mentor, a successful businessperson who has already been through the growing pains of starting and running a business. Mentors can offer many advantages, including:
- Free counseling.
- The opportunity to learn from someone else's successes and failures.
- Unbiased feedback.
- The ability to tap into their network.
Know why are you seeking helpYour first task is determining what you want to accomplish with the mentoring relationship. If you want to improve your personal skills, take an inventory of your weaknesses and strengths. If there's a specific area of your business that needs improvement, decide to focus the mentoring relationship on that.
Start the search by networkingFinding a mentor takes legwork and lots of networking. Good places to search include industry trade associations as well as your local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce or SBA Small Business Development Center. Ask for referrals from friends, colleagues and other successful people in your community.
Small Business Development Center near you. SCORE gives free online mentoring; review its "60-Second Guide to Finding a Business Mentor." Women can find a list of formal business mentoring programs at the National Women's Business Council. Members of the National Association for the Self-Employed can choose an online consultant in the specific business area where help is needed.