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The why, the what and the how: A guide to mentorship for small business owners

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners.

Published Jul 31, 2022


Several of the world’s most renowned business leaders – entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – have attested to the power of mentorship.

Validating these opinions is a global study conducted by Kabbage Inc, which found that over 90 percent of small business owners agree that mentors have a direct impact on the growth and the survival of their businesses.

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The why: exploring some of the benefits of mentorship

An experienced perspective: Being qualified to perform a role has always been deemed important, but as more human resource teams have discovered, experience is just as, if not more, valuable.

The experience that mentors bring – and by providing advice and suggestions – can afford business owners with foresight and a lens into the future of your business and industry.

Networking opportunities: The network you build over time will be one of the most useful tools in growing your business. In building a relationship with a mentor, you will gain access to a wider network of other professionals who may have the skills, expertise and connections you need to market your business, build a customer base and benefit from a greater level of support.

A sounding board for big decisions: As an SME owner, your business journey will be punctuated by moments that will call on you to make big, tough decisions. While you may have the most intimate knowledge of how the business works, a mentor will be able to provide an unbiased perspective that may help sidestep some serious consequences you may not have considered. Alternatively, receiving a mentor’s support in making decisions will give you the confidence to proceed knowing that someone with experience has sense checked your forecasts and agrees with the direction you are going in.

The what: Two of the most important qualities to look out for in a mentor

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Compatibility: While choosing a mentor who has experience in your industry or specific role may not be 100% necessary, it’s important that you choose a mentor who shares a similar philosophy, moral outlook and values. For example, a social entrepreneur may not benefit from a mentor who is wholly focused on the commercial objective of doing business. However, business owners often find value in partnering with someone who believes that “doing good is also good business.”

Transparency and honesty: Before entering into any kind of relationship with a mentor, be transparent about your needs in terms of what the demands will be on their time, how quickly you need to be responded to, how often you will be communicating with them, what you expect to get out of the relationship and what you can give back. Your mentor should be someone who is honest and open about their limitations from the outset. Establishing these kinds of professional boundaries will give you a strong foundation to build on.

The how: Ways to find a mentor:

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Consider your immediate circles: Sometimes a suitable mentor is already within your trusted network of friends and professional connections. Examine your immediate circle and consider whether any of the individuals you spend time with have qualities that you resonate with as an entrepreneur.

Connect with like-minded networks: Social networks like LinkedIn provide valuable networking opportunities. Look for groups that produce and discuss content that is relevant to your business journey and get involved. Use hashtags to find articles and opinions that like-minded individuals are posting and ask questions to find out more.

Put yourself out there: The best way to find something you’re looking for is to simply ask for it. Spread the word within your circles, within your team and on social media that you are open to working with a mentor. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover how many people are willing to give of their time and energy to help someone else build a successful business.

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Ben Bierman is the managing director of Business Partners.