It’s a fact that having a mentor increases your chances for success. According to one survey a few years ago, 70% of small businesses that received mentoring survived for 5 years, which is double the rate for those without mentoring.
What is mentoring for entrepreneurs?
Mentoring is an ongoing relationship between a mentor and mentee in which the former provides guidance and advice to the latter as a person and as a business owner. Over time the relationship is often a two-way street for sharing insights and support. Mentoring differs from business coaching, which is usually for a limited time and focuses on specific business problems.
The Economic Empowerment of Women’s Peace Through Business® is a program helping women business owners in Afghanistan and Rwanda. Now in its 11th year, the program provides training and mentoring. Founder, Dr. Terry Neese, told me that its success rate for the more than 600 businesses that went through the program is 80%!
Here’s how the program works: A select group of women from these countries are chosen to attend a boot camp in the U.S. Then for 5 days they live and work with an American woman business owner who is matched by industry. These mentors continue mentorship via email for one year, although friendships forged in the process go on and on. Finally, all graduates of the program pledge to mentor other women business owners.
One example of success was a woman in Afghanistan who ran a printing business. After winning a big contract, her competitor — a man — had her paper supply torched. With continued mentoring and support, she was able to get back in business, and again acquire a good contract. Since then she’s expanded the number of employees and scaled up her business.
The longevity of the program and the outstanding success of the women business owners who’ve participated speak for itself. This is an endorsement for mentorship.
Your mentoring options
If you’re interested in finding a mentor, you have many options:
One-sided mentoring. The mentor does not know you exist but may still be very helpful. You merely absorb the lessons from successful entrepreneurs by reading, listening, and viewing content from blogs, YouTube clips, and TED talks. Most of the content for this type of mentoring is free.
Informal mentoring from colleagues. Who knows your industry better than someone who is also in it? I’ve found that small business owners are very generous with their time and advice for younger entrepreneurs. It takes initiative to reach out to the person who can provide invaluable information and guidance, but it’s worth the effort. Make connections through your chamber of commerce, networking events, and word-of-mouth.
Structured mentoring. There are many organizations and companies offering mentoring for entrepreneurs. Here are some:
- SCORE is the largest network of volunteer business mentors, which is free. It connects you to mentors, regardless of the stage of business that you’re at. You can interact with a mentor in person or online if you aren’t near a SCORE office.
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization offers mentoring for its members (owners, founders, and majority stakeholders of a business earning at least $1 million). This is a worldwide organization with numerous chapters in the U.S. Membership here is expensive.
- JumpStart is a program in Northeast Ohio that uses a team approach by matching a mentee to mentors (up to 4) who meet on a consistent and ongoing basis.
- Colleges and universities. Check out what’s available to you locally. For example, the University of Kansas offers its business students the School of Business Mentorship Program where seasoned professionals mentor students.
Be a mentor
If you’re in a good place in your business, you can help others by becoming a mentor.
To quote Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”