Kelly Hodgkin, Business Mentor and Owner of KMH Events, explains the importance of mentors in the life of an entrepreneur and how best they can utilise the opportunity to work with mentors to make the best use of their wisdom and knowledge
Mentoring is nothing new. This valuable tool has been used by the world’s most successful organisations to improve productivity in the workplace for years. Around 85% of US Fortune 500 companies use mentoring, and recently, we’ve seen an increase in the number of entrepreneurs and individuals choosing to work with a business mentor. There are many studies that demonstrate the positive impact of mentoring on the start-up world. According to the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative, 70% of small business owners who receive mentorship make it through the first five years successfully; that’s twice the rate of those who don’t work with a mentor. Elsewhere, Mentorcam reported that entrepreneurs who receive guidance from an experienced mentor increase their annual revenue by an average of 83%.
As a founder, getting external guidance from an experienced and accomplished business owner can make a huge difference, not only for the success of your business, but also to help you handle the personal ups and downs of entrepreneurship. When you’re starting out there are so many things to learn. Having a mentor will help you avoid some of the common pitfalls by listening to someone who has been there before. That said, you’ll obviously want to keep a close eye on your expenses in the early days, which means maximising your investment and making sure the mentor relationship is as effective as possible.
When is the right time to get a mentor?
It’s common for entrepreneurs to wait until they reach a certain stage in their business journey before they seek support. The right timing depends on many different factors. However, in general, I would say the earlier the better. Getting a mentor onboard from the beginning can save you significant time and money in the long run if it makes you more efficient and stops you making costly mistakes. When you’re so focused on a particular goal, it’s easy to miss things and a second opinion can provide perspective. In my experience with clients, it’s a fairly even split. Around 50% come to me with an initial business idea. The other half are more established, but they’re stuck with a certain aspect or struggling to achieve the next stage of growth.
Feeling stuck is actually one of the biggest signs you need a mentor who can give you the motivation, encouragement, and practical advice to move forward. Other signs would be if you have an idea but don’t know where to start, or if you haven’t seen any business growth in the last six months.
What can a mentor help with?
Broadly speaking a business mentor can help you navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship, identify opportunities for expansion, and develop practical strategies to achieve your goals. They can provide guidance in areas like marketing, sales, operations, finance, human resources, and personal and professional skill development. Another big bonus is that mentors often have extensive networks, which they can leverage to provide introductions and opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. This is especially useful if you are entering a new market or branching out into a fresh sector.
There is also the less tangible, but no less important side to mentoring, i.e. encouraging you to stay motivated and focused on your goals. Being a business owner can be lonely and a mentor will serve as an impartial sounding board, offering guidance during difficult times. They can also help you develop your confidence and overcome limiting beliefs to unlock your full potential.
Making the relationship work
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to choosing a mentor, but one of the biggest factors is connection. Do your research to find someone who’s background is aligned with your own vision and ask for a discovery call to make sure you have a good rapport. Likewise, how the relationship pans out is very individual. Some people choose to have a package of four sessions and feel like it’s enough to get over a specific hurdle. Whereas, others enjoy having continuous support and someone to bounce ideas off on a regular basis.
It’s crucial that you take responsibility for the results and don’t be afraid to voice any concerns or highlight things you would prefer to do differently. Usually you will develop an action plan together and it’s up to you to spend time in between sessions working on any scheduled tasks. That way, you will be ready to tackle the next steps in the following session. Ask plenty of questions and tap into your mentor’s network to make valuable new connections.
Committing to your personal and professional development is one of the most valuable things you can do as an entrepreneur. When you set time aside for your own growth, you’ll soon see the returns for your business.