Looking for a business mentor? You need one who has grown and run their own business

why a business mentorThe figures on business failure are eye watering – more than 50% of all new businesses don’t make it to the five-year mark and ultimately 95% fail. Government statistics show there were 382,000 new businesses formed in 2017 -18 but that 357,000 businesses folded at the same time 

With business owners reporting that their new venture has caused more stress and given them less cash in their pockets, making a business succeed can be hard work and is not for the faint hearted. 

As a business mentor, I spend time challenging my clients on whether they really know what they are letting themselves in for and if they have the mental toughness, capacity to succeed and an appropriate support network.

Business Mentoring

With a never-ending to-do list and tight budgets, you could be forgiven for questioning spending money on a business mentor. However, this should be seen as a highly valuable investment – here are some reasons why: 

  • A mentor will help you grow and develop your business – 97% of business owners and managers who have used a mentor say they are invaluable to their personal and commercial growth.
  • 70% of businesses with a mentor make it beyond the 5 year mark. 
  • Mentors provide a short-cut to good decisions and more importantly they help you avoid the bad ones! In contrast to business coaches, who ask you good questions to help you arrive at your own decisions, business mentors HAVE BEEN THERE AND DONE IT, helping avert potential issues by offering their first hand experience.
  • They are a sounding board and a chance for you to offload the challenges of being a business owner, assuring you that you’re not alone.
  • Having established networks, business mentors can introduce you to their contacts to help you grow your business and resolve issues and challenges you have.
  • Accountability is one of the biggest issues holding back small businesses. If no one is making them deliver on their commitments, the business is unlikely to be as successful as it could be. There will be something on your to-do list right now that you’ve been putting off because no one is making you do it. A mentor will make you do it – constructively and politely,  and for your benefit.

How do you find the right business mentor for you?

It’s important to note that not everyone who positions themselves as a business expert has actually run their own business.  You wouldn’t  learn to drive with someone who doesn’t hold a licence?  The same applies with a business mentor – why would you want to learn how to run a business from someone who hasn’t been there and done it? 

Broadly speaking there are 3 types of business support – coaches, mentors and consultants.

Coaches often have qualifications in techniques which help you arrive at your own decisions and are normally short-term relationships.

Mentors have extensive business experience and can offer guidance and support over a longer-term relationship to add value to you and your business. They will use their experience and knowledge to offer solutions, build success and help you avoid problems.

A consultant is usually appointed to help identify and solve a specific business problem.

The best mentors also use coaching techniques by asking the right questions to help you think through decisions, whilst also drawing on their experience to guide you.  

In the UK there are 30,000 coaches, mentors and consultants in an unregulated sector where anybody can promote themselves as a business expert. 

I would advise picking your mentor by looking for someone who is a member of the Association of Business Mentors (ABM) – this gives you an assurance of experience and quality.  The ABM is the professional body for business mentors in the UK and sets high standards for its members and their work.  To be approved as an ABM member,  the mentor’s experience and qualifications will have been verified, and they will have made a commitment to professional development. I have been a member of the ABM for seven years and I am one directors, helping drive the ABM forward on many fronts.

When you’re thinking about working with a mentor, you should ask a potential business mentor about their business experience. Were they successful? Some great mentors had businesses that failed, but that can provide invaluable experience.  What difference have they made to the businesses they have worked with? What industries have they worked in? You should seek testimonials and case studies to back this up – great business mentors will be happy to provide such information.

The most important factor when choosing a mentor is to find someone you click with and who you feel you can trust.  Business mentors will normally offer a free discovery session which you should take advantage of to get a true feel of the value of working with a mentor.

 If you find yourself working into the early hours, have a never ending to-do list, struggling financially and unable to grow the business,  something needs to change – your best move is to find a business mentor and one who is a member of the Association of Business Mentors.