Mentoring — Getting Help and Giving Back

By Catherine Lang-Cline    

If you are an entrepreneur, I am guessing that you started your business with a great idea for a good or service that you really believed in. You may or may not have gained some business knowledge along the way before creating your own business but regardless, there is no way you could have been prepared for all of the nuances involved with running a business. So what can you do? You can get help.

The first thing you need to do is admit that you need it. And just so you are aware, everyone needs it. That is why large corporations have Boards of Directors and advisors, they get the expertise they need. And you can too.

To get started, think about where some of your weakness are. These are the first areas that you must seek help for and you could start with finding an advisor, or better yet, create an advisory board for your business. You can ideally pay this board or just buy them lunch, but meet quarterly and discuss the issues of your business and the areas that are not your strengths. Is there someone on your list that you would love to have as an advisor? Ask them. You will be surprised as to how much people are willing to help if you respect their time and their expertise

You can also find a mentor or maybe a couple of them because more than one opinion on something is always better. But a mentor is more like someone you aspire to be like in business, in your personal life or both. They can share how they achieved their status and guide you around some of the potholes that they encountered. There is nothing better than someone who can help navigate you to your goal.

Now that you are well on your way to growth with your new advisors and mentors, start to think about how you can pay it forward. Once you have been in business 5, 10, 15 or more years, your experience to someone that is starting up will be invaluable. And by this time, you really know more than you think. Think that you don’t have time for that? Well, someone else did make time for you and I am guessing that they were busy as well. Which means it can be managed and scheduled a bit on your terms. After all, they are coming to you for help. Maybe you meet with your mentee quarterly to discuss problems and give them a to-do list to walk away with? You will be amazed as to how much you know and how much you can guide them through the issues of starting business. And an added bonus— you just might get a free lunch out of it.

Having done both, I can tell you that the power to give help and get it is incredible. If you start working with a mentor or advisor, be on-time, be courteous, and really listen to what you are being told. Ultimately, it is your business and your choice to move forward with any advice, but really take the knowledge to heart. And if you are mentoring or advising someone, be on-time, be patient, and speak about your own experiences because it is those life-lessons that teach the most.