Do you need a business mentor?
We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’.
All too often it applies to business owners who’ve become so wrapped up in the day to day running of their operation that they’ve lost the ability to determine what’s best for the business or make decisions to help it grow and prosper. Or they’re new to the commercial caper and simply don’t have the expertise in some important areas.
So who you gonna call?
Engaging a mentor is a step that some people take when they need some guidance on where they can make important changes that will kick their business to the next level.
Bringing a mentor into the fold could save or develop your business.
Many people are comfortable with their business trajectory and see no need to seek advice from an outsider. But we spoke to a couple of business owners who’ve either saved or developed their business by bringing a mentor into the fold.
Sebastian Property Services managing director Matt Marsh met his mentor at an industry workshop and developed such a strong relationship with him that they eventually joined forces as business partners.
“Initially it was an accidental thing for us. I went to a workshop on tendering, which he (the mentor) was actually running that day,” Marsh says.
“It started out when I had an issue with a tender with a client and needed help, and he was a contact that we had.”
“We were just meeting once a month in a coffee shop, having a chat, he’d give me some things to look at, talk about a few ideas. Typically when you talk to someone you go away and do a third of it. I approached it that if we discussed something and agreed to it, that I’d go and try to do it.”
Marsh says the external advice eventually helped him to take his unprofitable business and turn it into a successful operation that recently employed another full-time manager.
External advice turned an unprofitable business into a successful operation.
“The real benefit they give you is just someone that knows what they’re doing, looking in from the outside and bringing their experience and their common sense, and seeing the weaknesses that you actually might have in the business and offer suggestions on what you’re doing.”
“It’s not that much different to sport. If you’re in the game, you’re wrapped up in the game and you’re not actually seeing the big picture of what’s going on from above. As much as anything, just from a mental perspective the mentor’s there to give you that release that you’ve got someone to talk to that actually understands what you’re talking about.”
Choosing the right fit
Not every mentor relationship is guaranteed to be a success.
Rosie Price, from 12 Exposures Photography and Design, sought out two different mentors at different stages of her career, and with vastly different results.
Her first was a former employer who provided positive reinforcement that she was on the right path to success, as well as helping her to improve her skills in sales.
“He gave me advice, bits and pieces. Every time I saw him he’d say ‘keep positive, keep moving forward and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, worry about what you’re doing,” Price says.
Your work is your bread & butter but it’s also your art.
“He was very good at upselling and he said to always value your work. Your work is your bread and butter but it’s also your art. You’re the artist, this is your work and you’re the best.”
But when Price began using another mentor more recently, she quickly discovered he was the wrong fit for her.
“He was a business mentor who helped people with sales. I didn’t like him. I didn’t feel comfortable with him. I felt like it was all about selling, selling, selling and not about the person or getting to meet your customer,” she recalls.
A mentor might not be for everyone, but it might also be just what you and your business need.
Tips for using a mentor
- Make sure it’s someone you feel comfortable with. You’ll be sharing important business information with them, and you’re unlikely to value their opinion if you don’t like them.
- Take their suggestions on board and take action. If not, your mentor meetings are just a great way to kill a few hours and cost you a bunch of coffees and lunches.
- You get what you pay for. If they’re mentoring you for free don’t always expect quick responses. It might be better to cough up a little cash to ensure your mentor is on hand when you need them.
- Honesty is the best policy. Have an honest and open discussion with them about what you want to achieve from the mentoring, to ensure you’re on the same page.
- Make sure you give them a sound understanding of your business. You don’t want unsuitable advice that wastes your time and, more importantly, your money.