Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Posted by Tiffan Clark
I’ve already shared the importance of having a mentor. Now you’re sold on the idea…so what next? How do I find the right one and make sure it’s a good fit—on both sides of the relationship? And then, how do I ensure that relationship thrives, and they want to stick by my business, through thick and thin.
While business mentors bring a depth of experience and industry knowledge to entrepreneurs, this is a two-way relationship. These men and women are life-long learners and appreciate the chance to work with savvy entrepreneurs who keep them abreast of the latest industry trends and technologies. They also get satisfaction out of sharing their experiences while enhancing their effectiveness as leaders.
IdeaCrossing, JumpStart’s online resource that helps connect entrepreneurs with business mentors and capital providers, recommends the following strategies for finding and working with a business mentor:
Be assertive in your business mentor search.
Any social activity requires effort and outreach on your part. Whether you are shaking hands at a business function or initiating online communications, be bold and take action. Reach out, state your case, and foster solid relationships through online and offline communication channels.
Locate the right business mentor for you.
Find someone you are comfortable with, who takes the time to understand your business venture and offers skills and knowledge you don't yet possess as an entrepreneur. Great business mentor sources include business and industry associates, social clubs, professional contacts, and online communities. Increasingly, the Internet is a great place to pair smart-thinking business pros with entrepreneurs seeking investment funding and/or assistance.
Once you've located your business mentor, it's time to listen. He or she is the expert and has most likely been in your shoes. Share as much of your business plan/concept as you feel comfortable and take detailed notes as they share feedback. Then act – separate the suggestions that are actionable and realistic at your current entrepreneurial state from the ideas that would be best utilized in the future.
Take a step back and review your process.
Did you find a business mentor with whom you’ve connected on a personal level? Did he or she provide the skills and advice you needed, outside of your original thinking? Did you listen in an unbiased fashion and act upon sound data?
The relationship between an entrepreneur and a business mentor can be invaluable to entrepreneurs. But it can also be fairly complex and needs to be nurtured if it is to continue long-term. Great mentoring relationships allow both the mentor and mentee to refine their skills while developing new talents. Mentors typically come away from the experience with tremendous satisfaction, having revitalized their own passions and sharpened their insights. Think about ways you can ensure this satisfaction in your mentor.
Get started and find a mentor/mentee.
Interested in becoming a mentor or finding one for your business? Beyond referrals, online communities are a great resource for finding a business mentor or for finding a company to mentor. Niche Internet business communities like IdeaCrossing (https://www.ideacrossing.org/) are dedicated to fostering relationships among entrepreneurs and members of the mentor and investor communities. Register now on IdeaCrossing to see what possible connections may exist. It just may make the difference for your organization’s success and profitability.
Tiffan Clark is the Vice President of IdeaCrossing, a free online community created by JumpStart, which connects entrepreneurs with the capital, mentors and technical resources necessary to grow their businesses. Tiffan has worked at several venture-backed startup technology companies and strategic marketing agencies in both Boston and Cleveland.