Defined as a knowledgeable and trusted adviser, a mentor is a person experienced in a particular field. They share the benefits of their hard-won expertise with a less experienced person just coming up (called a mentee).
Do you need one? Yes, because nobody has all the answers, everyone needs a mentor!
Where you can find a mentor? Networking events and recommendations from colleagues, friends and family are two avenues to explore. Organizations such as SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) listed by the Small Business Administration are also great places to look for one.
What can you expect from a mentor-mentee relationship? Plenty. Expect a good business mentor to help you:
1. Expand your network
From accountants or attorneys to any number of other acquaintances, a mentor will likely have a large network of people who can help your business. You’ll gain not only an introduction but also the assurance they’ve proven their worth through past experiences.
With such mentor recommendations, you can avoid the iffy results of a trial-and-error system.
2. Overcome challenges
A lost account, a lawsuit, a new competitor or even a leaking roof. Sooner or later, every entrepreneur will encounter setbacks. Having a mentor will help you weather the storm.
Mentors have experienced the highs and lows of running a business. So, they’re prepared to give you words of encouragement as well as practical advice on how to overcome challenges.
3. Steer clear of mistakes
A good business mentor has likely been there, done that and made countless wrong turns of their own along the way! Share your thoughts with them before embarking in a fresh direction.
By tapping into a mentor’s experience, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls that business newcomers encounter and save yourself from the time and expense associated with them.
4. Acquire missing skills
No one, least of all a beginning businessperson, can be expected to be talented at everything. An entrepreneur who is good at sales or production may be less adept at finances or staff communications.
Lean on a mentor to help you develop any business skills that need improvement. That’s what they’re there for!
5. Gain fresh perspectives
New business owners are often full of promising ideas but frequently short of qualified people to bounce them off of. Let your mentor fill this role.
They’ll examine your concept with an objective point of view. Having dealt with clients, investors, recruits, regulators and more, your mentor can also help you gauge how your initiatives will be perceived by others.
Does a franchise owner need a mentor?
Unlike buyers of independent businesses, entrepreneurs who purchase franchises do so in part because of the support they’ll receive. The franchisor’s home-office experts and regional directors are a ready source of ongoing advice.
So, too, are fellow franchise owners. In most cases, they don’t share a territory so they’re more than willing to share their expertise—assuming, of course, that the flow of solutions and encouragement is a two-way street.
But while the need for a mentor is reduced if you’re a franchisee, it’s still likely you’ll still benefit especially if the person you work with is experienced in your industry or happens to be a former franchise owner.
When starting out in any venture whether a start-up, stand-alone or franchise, it’s safe to say that the more (good) advice, the better!
A concluding thought …
As you‘ve seen, the rewards of having a mentor can be great while the risk is almost non-existent. Unlike professional advisors or business consultants, most mentors offer their services free of charge.
The bottom line? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by working with a good mentor. Every up-and-coming business owner—franchisees included—should have one!