Many will think that the most likely time to call on professional business support would be at the very start of the business journey. In my experience, it’s often much further down the business path when a mentor is most needed.
At the beginning, there’s a ton of support for would-be business owners to call on, and helpfully, much of it is free or very low investment. It can be very generic but it often helps to learn the basics and be around others in a similar position. The downside, of course, is that the quality can vary. Poor advice that has cost nothing is still poor advice. Anyone who’s willing to do some homework can get off to a great start on their business journey with local business support groups/ hubs, banks, online resources et al.
What comes next?
As the business grows, the vision and planning needs to become far more strategic; small business owners need to know what’s working, and most importantly, what’s not. Having the right people is crucial, those with the right skills and experience and those who share your passion for success.
A business needs a plan
Having worked like crazy to get beyond the start-up phase, you have to work smart as well as hard to realise the business’s full potential. That’s the time many business owners call in a Business Mentor for support, advice and to form and deliver a strategy to take on the challenges of a growing business.
Less than 25% of SMEs have a written business plan and this often means that they are being very tactical and are moving from fighting one fire to another without ever really making strides towards their goal.
I work with many businesses of varying sizes and across numerous sectors. These common themes crop up regularly for business owners and are, more often than not, the reasons I’m called upon for support:
- Doubting they’ve built the right business – feeling trapped, hit the growth ceiling, have no options or freedom
- Can’t find a team that care as much about the business as they do – they find it hard to give up control & delegate
- What got them here is not what is going to get them to the next level – so they need to become more strategic, create systems & processes & measure activities
Putting aside the business skills and the technical ins and outs, almost all of my clients would tell you that one of the most valued aspects of working with me, is to pick someone else’s brains and bounce ideas around with. A sounding board if you like.
Running and building a business is often the loneliest place you can find yourself. With a Business Mentor you have the ear of someone who has been in your shoes, who has run businesses before. They’ve made the hard decisions you are facing and have experienced the problems you have.
More often than not, a business owner cannot or does not want to chat to their team, other half or close friends. Talking to somebody that won’t judge often helps.
Business owners who have lost sight of what is and isn’t working.
When you’re running your own business, it’s hard not to be anything other than 100% focussed on the day-job.
A Business Mentor has the luxury of an alternative perspective. For a start, they’re not you! They have the luxury of being on the outside and the inside of your business and often know what’s good, bad and ugly within minutes.
A good Business Mentor will ask clever questions to tease out where you are personally and professionally, what and where you feel things are working and what you think the potential solutions are. They will then add in their ideas and perspectives from their experience to help develop a winning action plan.
Often, the answers you get are not necessarily the answers you’ll want to hear! You’ll always get an honest assessment and an alternative strategy to consider and, when it comes down to it and agreed action plan.
Business owners who’ve reached the limits of their skills and experience.
Business Mentors bring a ton of business skills and experience.
They’ve built processes that work, they’ve problem-solved, they know how to identify, record and review key data, they’ve rebuilt communication channels and, crucially, they have the best contacts.
Business Mentors can help motivate a team, can identify which areas are strong and which need strengthening. They work with you through every product, service, and function of the business to build on what’s working and to help change or ease what’s not.
Business owners who are looking for a straight answer.
Business Mentors don’t just help identify the problem and give you the theory behind what’s working and not working. They can also tell you how to deal with issues as you go along. They have tried and tested methods developed in their own businesses and through working with other business owners. Great Business Mentors never stop learning!
So, if you need to know how to identify what your customers actually like about what you do, or how to deal with the ones who don’t like what you do, the Business Mentor will help develop a strategy for that.
Internal communication is often at the root of employee dissatisfaction. Business Mentors can help identify where the pinch points are, where the messages aren’t getting through, and suggest ways of resolving misunderstandings, or lack of inclusion and transparency. It can be the same with supply chain issues, financial matters, and operational problems.
Real. Practical. Help.
Business owners who worry about letting anything go.
A Business Mentor can help you overcome one particular issue of your business growth. However, the best Mentor/ Mentee relationships are often long term, a collaboration that grows and develops along with your business. This not only builds trust; it also brings consistency and constantly renewable resources and long-term expertise.
My longest standing client has been with me for over 12 years.
Business owners who feel unsupported.
I asked one business owner what keeps him awake at night and he replied, ‘it’s thinking about all the mortgages I feel responsible for’. It can make a world of difference knowing that someone has your back, cares about your business and those mortgages as much as you do.
If a Business Mentor does anything, it’s helping you to make better decisions and to give you the skills and confidence to know how to do it, ultimately, without a Business Mentor.
Only 42% of SMEs make it to the five year point. Statistically, of those with a Business Mentor, 70% make it to the same point.
I often hear “I can’t afford to!” to which I ask, “Can you afford not to?”
Don’t feel lonely and keep winging it. Get yourself some assistance and watch yourself and your business fly.