Having a great mentor at any stage of the game, in my opinion, is absolutely crucial for success, be it personally or professionally. It’s important when you are starting up, it’s important when you are thinking of adding a product/service, and it’s even important when you decide to either close up shop, quit your job or sell. To be bold, having a mentor just might be the difference between sinking and swimming in your career. This is because quite often (9.99/10), they’ve been exactly where you are now and have tonnes of information/experience that they are willing to pass on to the right person.
What is a Mentor?
According to Futurpreneur.ca, mentors provide business advice, as well as support and encouragement, to help young entrepreneurs remain focused on what is important for the success of their business.
GoMentor (a solely Canadian site designed to pairing together mentors and mentored) has a similar, but more in-depth definition of what a mentoring relationship is. According to them, a mentoring relationship is “an open, supportive relationship, based on trust and mutual respect. Through this special relationship, a person with a wealth of experience (the mentor) wishes to make their experience and knowledge available to another person (the mentored entrepreneur) to guide them in their personal and professional development as an entrepreneur“.
The Benefits of Having a Mentor.
- They can provide you with advice & a different perspective for looking at different aspects of your business (i.e. marketing, office layout, pricing models, etc.).
- Entrepreneurship can’t all be learned from reading a book or article. The vast majority of it (98.99%) is learned from just getting out there and doing it.
- They’ve been where you are now, so they can pass along some tips and tricks that they used to help them when they needed to make a decision or clear a hurdle.
- They are a great person to vent to when you need to let off some steam about the business.
- There will be days, weeks, maybe even months when you consider throwing in the towel because of one reason or another. A marketing campaign might not be generating as much revenue as anticipated, or maybe your starting to doubt your own abilities as an entrepreneur.
- Again, your mentor has likely felt the exact same way before, often many times over! It’s quite cathartic to open up to someone who has your and your business’ best interest.
- They offer multiple opportunities for networking.
- Mentors often have incredibly vast networks themselves of people that they can reach out to on your behalf as needed.
- If you need help with something (i.e. patents, bookkeeping, marketing, etc.) or want to make a connection with someone (i.e. the owner of a store you want to display your wares in or a possible angel investor), just ask your mentor if they know them or know someone who does! They already have a vested interest in your success, and it helps to have a mutual connection already in place.
- Mentors help boost your confidence through encouragement.
- When your faced with hard times and difficult decisions, it can be really taxing and take an incredible toll on your mental health. Mentors are a great source of encouragement and confidence boosting as they can empathize with you because they too have experienced the highs and lows.
- They themselves have likely grappled with mental health issues that come from bearing an extreme amount of stress and self-doubt for extended periods. Because they know you on a personal level too, they know the right words and actions to use to help lift your spirits up again.
- A mentoring relationship can end up turning into a long-lasting friendship.
- Sometimes a mentoring relationship only lasts for a short-period, depending on the arrangement between the mentor and mentored.
- In some instances, though, you can really hit it off and create a strong bond that lasts for years and multiple collaborations. This can really help your business to succeed because of the consistency and access to resources that this brings about.
How to Find a Mentor.
- Determine what it is that you are looking for in mentor.
- What is that you hope to achieve with a mentor.
- Are you looking for someone to help with setting and achieving goals? How about someone that can offer guidance on specific areas of your business? Are you looking for someone you can seek advice in general from as another entrepreneur?
- Look around your inner circle, but think outside of the box too.
- Start by looking at family members and friends who are working on or for similar businesses or industries. This will help the relationship flourish much more quickly because they already have a vested interest in helping you be successful on a personal level.
- Use your network to put it out there that you are looking for someone to mentor you. A positive word about you to a potential mentor through a mutual connection can do wonders! In this case, don’t make the decision about who to have as a mentor lightly. You want to establish a rapport and relationship with them before you ask them to make such a big commitment and attach their name to you and your business.
- Send them an invite to meet.
- Once you’ve found someone you think you would like to have as a mentor, reach out to them! Find out the best way to contact them (most often phone or email), and send them an introduction to you and your business with an invite to meet to discuss things further. You might also want to include why it is that you decided to reach out to them (i.e. reputation, mutual friend’s recommendation, expertise, etc.).
- Even if you don’t think they’ll accept (i.e. too busy, too sought-after, etc.), send an invite anyways. You never know!
- Be clear on your expectations for the mentoring relationship.
- Make sure that your (potential) mentor is clear on what you are looking to get out of the relationship.
- This way, they can determine if they are the right person for you, and if they have the time/expertise to really be of benefit to you. If it’s the case that they don’t think they would be the right fit, thank them and ask if they know of anyone they can recommend. Also, ask if you can keep the lines of communication open if you have any questions.
- Clearly define the parameters of your mentoring relationship.
- How will you communicate (i.e. by phone, email, in-person)?
- How often will you meet (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, sporadically)?
- Will the meetings be formal (with an agenda) or informal (with loose sets of questions or concerns)?
- Will there be a set timeline for the relationship (i.e. 6-months, until you reach X-number of dollars in revenue, etc.) or will it be fluid with no end-date?
Honestly, I don’t know where I would be right now with Bay of Quinte Young Entrepreneurs if it weren’t for my mentors Ilona, Chantal, Bob, Wendy, and so many more! They helped me to fully conceptualize it, gave me advice based on what they’ve experienced in their lives, helped me to fully think things through when I was working out how the pivot to online would work, and are just in general there if I have any question or need to vent!
18 April update: Also HUGE, MASSIVE SHOUTOUT to my mentors (whether they knew they were having an impact on me or not) in my professions as an HR Administrator and CIC Officer: Julie Cooper & Fred Pollitt from Loyalist College Student Government who showed me how to get stuff done when it needed to be and never lost faith in my ability to pull off seemingly daunting tasks like Orientation week and letting me own the design & planning for the Loyalist College Spiritual Room, Major Leo Saccary (aka “the J1”, “Sir” or rarely “Leo”), Captain Michael Blakely-Bazinet (aka “BB”, “Capt BB” or “HRO”), Cpl Kim LePage (aka “Kim”, “Cpl LePage” if others are in earshot or “my favourite morning coffee buddy”), and PO2 Melanie Bourassa (aka “the PO”, “PO” or “Mel” as I need to get used to calling her).
Without them, I truly don’t think I would have had the courage to continue on. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked them fully for the support they’ve given me, so I’ll say it here publicly: THANK-YOU!!!