Running a business can be lonely work, especially when you face a tough decision. That’s when it can be a godsend to have a mentor with the business experience and good judgment needed to offer solid advice. Respondents to our latest Best Practices poll-47% of whom work with a mentor-share their tips for how to get the most out of a mentoring relationship.
1. “My mentors have made a significant difference in my life and my business,” writes Zale. “My mentors are worried about my success. They don’t tell me what to do, just what I have to get done. Although you pay advisors and consultants, a mentor is never paid, because it’s based on friendship and mutual respect. A few other thoughts about mentors:
- A real mentor doesn’t enter into the relationship expecting to be paid or share in the reward. Their main reward comes from seeing you succeed, and they get dividends when their mentoring starts helping them back.
- A mentor doesn’t do your work for you. They may introduce you to a few people, but if you expect them to do your work for you, then you’re taking advantage of them.
- A mentor has been there and done it, and has lived through your pain. They talk about their experiences and the mistakes they have made and are still making.
- Sometimes you talk to your mentor every day, and at other times only once a month.
- You must yourself act as a mentor to appreciate one.
- You know you have a mentor if you say, “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
2. “I would be a fool if I did not have a mentor,” says M. Stilwell. “The old adage of ‘not being able to see the forest for the trees’ holds true when you are so close to your own business. My mentor was a former customer who I truly respected and called on in my previous career for advice. Frank communication and brutal self-appraisal mean I benefit from the investment.”
3. “I found my mentor through my professional association,” says Bill Kennedy. “The Project Management Institute runs a mentoring program that gives mentees access to an experienced professional. Both mentor and mentee earn professional development credits, so there’s an incentive for both sides. What particularly impressed me was the organization of the program. PMI took applications, then matched professionals based on background and what they were trying to accomplish. Then they held a half-day training session to lay out the rules of the game. Finally, they had the mentor/mentee pairs work out a contract that set out how often and where they would meet, as well as the topics to be discussed. We just had our half-year check in. I love this program!”
For his answer, Bill Kennedy will receive a copy of The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky (Warner Business Books).
Watch for another Best Practices Poll in the next PROFIT-Xtra.