Is having a mentor key to small business success?

Taking on a mentor, a business expert without a vested interest, can mean your business benefits from a fresh and objective point of view, argues Darren Clare.

Starting a business can be challenging. The responsibility of leadership carries pressure and uncertainty. As the boss it can be difficult to turn to those around you for guidance, particularly if you’re expected to have all the answers. One solution might be mentoring – taking on a business expert without a vested interest who is able to take an overview and offer a fresh and objective point of view.

Some of the most successful people in businesses have relied upon mentorship at various stages in their career. Steve Jobs was known to offer advice to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of his business venture, for example.

Research shows mentors can have an extremely positive effect on businesses. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills* (BIS) found that nine out of ten businesses that had worked with a mentor reported a positive impact on their business and nearly twice as many mentored businesses reported an increase in turnover than non-mentored counterparts.

See also: A guide to business mentoring in the UK

Here are three reasons you should consider working with a mentor:

1. You can get motivated and achieve your potential

In business, you can only self-teach so much. Learning through trial and error can be a long process filled with highs and lows; life is too short to make mistake after mistake. A mentor will be able to push your thinking in the right direction. They will encourage risk while actively and objectively pushing a programme of learning and development.

2) You can open new doors

A mentor will typically have broad professional experience developed from years of networking and conducting business. Access to an established and trusted network of contacts might be the most valuable thing that a mentor can provide.

3) A mentor provides clarity and can set goals

Goal setting is the foundation for every successful mentoring relationship. Your mentor can work with you to discover the root cause of the problems that are setting you back and then work out a plan to help you overcome these problems. They will also help you define what success looks like and help you get there. Once a plan is in place, your mentor will encourage you to track your progress and goals using the benchmarks you have established together. This will help you to stay engaged and on the path to achieving your business goals.

Mentoring is important at every stage of business creation. People too often look for business support when their business is struggling; you should be working with a trusted mentor from the start of your business.

Darren Clare is CEO of Stratton Craig.

Further reading on mentoring

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