Being a business owner can be a lonely place and using a business mentor can make a major difference. Often you will be solely responsible for the decisions in your business and the consequences.
While some day to day and operational decisions are routine for you and your team, other choices are more tricky.
It is not a perfect world and many times you may be confused about making the best medium and long term decisions. Many decisions have to be made without sufficient evidence or data to back them up. Some rely more on experience and your foresight to see an opportunity ahead. Time pressures will also increase your stress level in these situations.
An experienced Business Mentor can provide valuable insight along with a new perspective to help you navigate your business challenges.
Do you have a trusted business mentor?
You are probably uncomfortable sharing all your challenges with your managers or employees for a few good reasons, such as:
- The decisions may affect them, and therefore may bias their views.
- Any decisions of a personal or financial nature are solely your affair and are not for over-sharing.
- Your team may not have the experience to give you good advice.
- There should be sufficient separation between you and your team so that you make objective decisions about them.
Some owners turn to their accountants for advice; however, their accountants may not have run businesses other than accounting firms.
While they may be good at financial forensics, developing a strategy and implementing it may not be their core strength. Practical implementation is where most strategies fail and therefore business experience is invaluable.
Why is a trusted business mentor invaluable?
Having the ability to discuss your business ideas and challenges with an experienced mentor can be an enormous benefit.
A mentor should have the experience to constructively challenge your thinking and help you decide the best course of action.
A business mentor can provide some wisdom and experience gained across years of executive management and perhaps different industries.
Receiving cross-industry ideas and best practices can be gold for your competitive advantage.
A business mentor may have the ability to be an executive coach. A coach is more instructional and guides with how to implement your plans.
Is industry-specific experience valuable?
Something you are probably wondering is whether your business mentor needs to have specific industry experience.
The answer depends upon where you are in your journey. A general business mentor should have a lot of experience across a large number of industries and, bring knowledge gained elsewhere into your business that can make a substantial difference.
A specialist or industry-specific mentor can be valuable from the perspective of a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful in your niche.
It is vital to judge whether you are their only client as they may also be advising your competitors.
The benefit of someone outside your industry is that they will not encourage you to think like everybody else in your industry!
5 Criteria to choose a business mentor
Trust and personality
A business mentor must be someone who will get to know, like and trust.
If you do not feel this is likely to happen, then the relationship will not work well.
The SME world is not the corporate world. Pick a business mentor who has run an SME business or SME business unit. There is no substitute for experience with executive P&L responsibility. Remember that businesses progress through life cycles, so select someone who has been through “ups and downs”.
If a business mentor uses too much corporate jargon or over-reliance on business processes, be careful.
Creative thinking catalyst
Your business mentor is not only a trusted sounding board but should significantly catalyse your creative thinking.
Their thinking is not constrained, and they should bring a fresh perspective.
A simple test for your mentor is whether they listen more than they talk.
They need to be empathetic to your situation and take the time to appreciate the nuances fully. Every business is unique and deserves unique attention. If they offer a highly opinionated or dogmatic approach, this will probably become a source of friction.
If they talk about themselves too much, then find someone else.
The right business mentor is more interested in their client that themselves.
Respectful but honest
A business mentor should always be respectful and non-judgmental to you. They should, however, have the confidence to tell you what you need to hear.
Lindfield Partners mentor SME owner across a range of businesses and industry sectors. We conduct our meetings both face to face and using video conferencing. Brendan Barrow is an experienced business mentor to SME owners. Brendan is based in Regional NSW.
To find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0401018282.