Behind almost every successful entrepreneur is a business mentor who provided wisdom and insight.
January is National Mentoring Month, so now is a wonderful time to think about finding a business mentor to help guide you through your daily decisions.
It’s easier to find business mentors than you may think, especially with our access to technology and communication tools today.
Some of the most successful people in the world charted their first entrepreneurial course because of the guidance that business mentors offered to them.
Bill Gates had Dr. Ed Roberts as a mentor during his time at Microsoft. Tiger Woods sought out the wisdom of his father when he first broke into the world of professional golf. Even Elizabeth Taylor benefitted from a mentoring relationship with Aubrey Hepburn.
It is tempting to find your own path to success. Some entrepreneurs do make things happen all on their own. You’ll discover that when there is a mentor by your side, however, that you gain an immediate competitive edge because two heads are better than one.
If you haven’t found a mentor yet to offer advice for your career aspirations, entrepreneurial activities, or even the difficulties of life, then make finding one your resolution for the coming year.
It is a relationship you will treasure for the rest of your life.
4 Steps to Follow When Finding a Mentor
The first step in finding business mentors will always be to take a deep breath.
Asking about mentorship places you in a position of vulnerability. It is difficult to admit on a personal level that you need help. Steady yourself, overcome the nervousness, and then follow these steps to make good things happen.
Clarify What You Seek
Write down the expectations you have for the mentorship relationship before you start trying to find someone. Think about the role you’d like this person to play in the development of your career. Do you want someone who can open doors for you?
Are you seeking out someone who offers practical entrepreneurial experiences?
When you clarify your goals before you start this process, the expectations and objectives you create for yourself will help you find the best possible business mentors.
Robert Friedland was the first mentor of Steve Jobs. They met in college during the early 1970s. A mutual friend of theirs, Daniel Kottke, offered his thoughts about this combination of forces in the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson.
“Robert was very much an outgoing, charismatic guy, a real salesman. When I first met Steve, he was shy and self-effacing, a very private guy. I think Robert taught him a lot about selling, about coming out of his shell, of opening up and taking charge of a situation.”
Friedland helped to come up with the name Apple and the reality distortion field technique that Jobs used to encourage people to follow his vision.
Think Outside the Box
Great business mentors are found everywhere. Don’t restrict yourself to your co-workers who share cubicles with you. Go outside of where you work. Look at professional associations, non-profit companies, or even in your family for the mentorship assistance you need.
Church groups, community centers, and your local Chamber of Commerce are untapped resources for mentorship too.
Daniel Darling, Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in Chicago, suggests that simple conversations can lead to friendships. Those relationships can then turn into mentorship opportunities.
“You don’t find a mentor by asking someone, ‘Can you be my mentor?’” Darling writes for Michael Hyatt. “That’s a bit awkward and may seem to put a heavy burden on someone who doesn’t know you very well. Instead, meet people, develop relationships through conversation, and let natural human interaction be your guide.”
Set Up a Meeting
When you identify someone that you believe could be a successful mentor for you, then it is time to set up a meeting. This time is where you’ll discuss the potential for a mentorship relationship.
Think up a list of objectives and initiatives which you could address during this meeting.
When asking about the possibility of mentoring, you must be clear on the terms of the relationship during this critical step. Set some initial ground rules about you want and expect while respecting the needs of the individual you chose for this role too.
Choose a location that is comfortable for both of you. There should be a place where you can speak about your mentorship desire in confidence.
Steve Jobs returned the favor of mentorship to Mark Zuckerberg in the early days of Facebook when its growth started to explode. They worked closely together, taking long walks to discuss what entrepreneurship meant for the new company.
“Jobs meant an enormous amount to the education of Mark,” said Don Graham, Facebook board member and the Chief Executive Officer of the Washington Post Company in 2012. “Mark will talk about that until the cows come home.
Biographer William Isaacson recalled asking Zuckerberg who he admired in Silicon Valley. The first name that came up was Steve Jobs.
Be Honest About Expectations
When someone agrees to be your business mentor, then you must offer honesty when discussing your commitment to the expectations laid out. There must be time availability for both parties simultaneously to make this relationship work.
Create a regular meeting schedule which includes the topics you wish to discuss.
Then make sure that you reserve some time in each session to go over events that happened after you set this schedule if you have questions or concerns about them.
The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests that the initial meeting is your responsibility.
“Take responsibility for scheduling the first meeting with your mentor, setting aside at least 60 minutes. The main purpose of this meeting is to get acquainted and establish goals and expectations for your mentoring relationship.”
This will help you take advantage of the “Mentor Effect.”
Send a copy of your work history to your mentor to discuss potential outcomes. Share your experiences, then listen to the advice offered. Remember to keep following up with each other, setting a regular meeting schedule that works for both parties.
“A mentor can help a young worker answer tough questions about his or her career path and get perspective on the industry,” Rachel Louise Ensign wrote for The Wall Street Journal. “The relationship may even help you eventually land a new job.”
Resources to Help You Find a Mentor
Every community offers business mentorship resources of some type. Even the smallest, most rural towns create programs and resources which help you build this needed relationship.
Women especially rely on their professional networks, which includes mentorship, for more than just finding a new job.
You can step into your local VFW, an Elk’s Lodge, a Lion’s Club, or a similar community gathering point to discuss the idea of forming a mentoring relationship with someone.
If you find that your local mentorship opportunities are full, then here are some resources to consider using to develop this relationship with someone.
This option offers you access to business counselors. Some volunteers provide mentorship over 60+ different industries to help your startup or small business grow. Over 10,000 experts are available right now.
SCORE is a non-profit resource partner of the SBA (the U.S. Small Business Administration), so the mentoring services offered are free. There is no charge to you, regardless of the times you visit with a mentor through this program.
There are options to speak through video chat or email with this program. If you have a local chapter available, then face-to-face meetings with business mentors are possible too.
Their volunteer mentors offer unique experiences which at all stages or aspects of business development. Even if you’re only thinking about starting a company right now, you’ll find helpful resources waiting for you here.
This mentorship program offers you access to several different initiatives which can help you begin building relationships.
With TiE Global Angels, you have an opportunity to leverage a substantial funding base, tapping into a network of robust investment groups which have a track record for success.
The Women Empowerment Initiative launched in 2016 to connect women in the entrepreneurial world with one another.
There is also the TiE University Challenge, which offers post-graduate students more opportunities to present ideas or participate in local or regional competitions. You may be eligible to compete in the Business Plan Competition also, which offers $1.5 million in total investments, along with other prizes, to 42 selected finalists.
ACE Mentor Program
This mentorship option offers today’s youth access to new opportunities to pursue careers in either construction or design.
“Our mission is to engage, excite, and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry,” the program writes on their home page.
Over 9,000 students from over 1,000 high schools currently participate in this program each year. More than $15 million in scholarships have been awarded to graduates through this initiative since its inception.
By engaging in mentorship opportunities at a young age, the goal of this program is to connect practicing professions with interested students so they can experience the expectations of a real career.
This option is another free mentoring service which hopes to turn your business possibilities into reality.
You’ll connect with volunteer mentors through this platform to begin solving problems and building your business together. It’s a real plug-and-play solution for those who find themselves struggling to resolve issues with their current opportunity.
Ezichi Bordner, founder of SCMathTutor, connected with Dr. Elliot Wassarman through this platform.
“I really wanted to impress Elliot because he had so much knowledge,” Bordner recalls. “I would give myself a deadline that I couldn’t meet, and I would come short because I just didn’t have enough time. And he said, ‘Hey Ezichi, this is for you. Don’t promise something that you cannot fulfill.’”
“This was beyond business. This was real world. He helped me with my character as well.”
Click on the “Mentor” heading on MicroMentor’s website, and you’ll find a list of potential connections. Each volunteer offers three key points of assistance. You can also see their recent activity and any endorsements they’ve received from past mentoring relationships.
11 Mentoring Statistics You Should Know
Mentoring does more than solve specific problems that you face. It is a relationship which offers coaching and training in general life skills. These opportunities often offer supportive tutoring opportunities which create long-term contributions in the lives of each person.
These mentoring statistics show that the benefits of this relationship are beneficial almost immediately.
1. About 3 million adult volunteers are currently involved in a formal one-on-one mentoring relationship. Total mentorship has risen by 19% since 2002, which means there are over 500,000 more active mentors today. (Corporation for National and Community Service)
2. 59% of all volunteers who engage in mentoring relationships are working full-time already. (Corporation for National and Community Service)
3. 83% of adults say they would get more involved with mentoring if they had expert help available to them if it became necessary. 79% say that local programs which offer a variety of interests and schedules would be helpful. 70% mentioned that having sanctioned time-off to provide mentoring would help them. (Corporation for National and Community Service)
4. Mentored businesses increase their revenue by 83%, while non-mentored companies grew their revenues by just 16%. (MicroMentor)
5. Over a 12-month period, 83% of businesses which receive mentoring survive, while only 74% of non-mentored companies made it through the entire year. (MicroMentor)
6. 42% of mentored companies were able to complete their startup process, compared to just 29% of non-mentored firms. (MicroMentor)
7. The average mentoring relationship requires 10 hours of commitment from both parties. (MicroMentor)
8. Of those who have a mentor, 97% say that their relationship is valuable. Another 55% believe that mentoring can help them succeed. (National Mentoring Day)
9. Only 1 out of 4 small- to medium-sized businesses currently use a mentor. (National Mentoring Day)
10. Two-third of businesses report an increase in productivity when there are mentors available in the workplace. 55% of companies say that mentoring relationships have a positive impact on their overall profits. (National Mentoring Day)
11. 63% of Millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed. 68% of those in this generation say that they intend to stay with their employer for more than five years when a mentor is available, but only 32% say that without mentoring. (Deloitte)
What Is the Value of a Business Mentor?
The primary value you receive when a business mentor provides assistance is their experience that is not shared in books.
“Experience is a very expensive asset,” writes Shelia Eugenio, a PR and Content Marketing Consultant based in San Jose, CA, “yet it’s crucial to business success. There’s only so much about a person’s experience you can gain from books.”
“It’s an unstated truth that most authors do not feel comfortable revealing everything about themselves in books.”
Dr. Katharine Hansen, a mentorship author and former online adjunct faculty for schools from Colorado to Vietnam, says that mentors offer you a sense of belonging and a fresh perspective.
“Your mentor can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as help you develop skills for success and a long-range career plan,” notes Hansen. “You can also work through career and workplace problems with your mentor’s assistance.”
Chris Myers, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officers of BodeTree, says that the real value of mentorship occurs when professionals remember that this relationship requires some give-and-take.
“Too many young professionals fail to realize that mentorship is a two-way street,” Myers writes. “You have to deliver tremendous value to your mentor as well, and that often means working longer and harder than those around you.”
There are times when you can find a mentor for free. The value of mentoring is such that trading professional services or bartering to receive this help is worth the investment.
“Sometimes we must pay for mentoring,” writes Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, an author and humorist who once worked as a hospice social worker. “Most of the times I have sought a coach or mentor, I’ve paid them for their time. It may seem like a lot of money, but the investment is definitely worth it.”
What Are the Qualities of Effective Business Mentors?
There may be millions of people involved in mentoring right now, but it is up to you to determine if a potential mentor offers the help you require.
You can find the best people to offer their assistance by looking for these unique qualities.
A Willingness to Communicate
Mentors must be an expert in their industry – or at least in their area of responsibility. They must clearly explain, through verbalization and written communication, what must happen and how you can start growing.
Clear communication must offer an opportunity for learning. The mentoring relationship will always provide limitations to the mentee if this quality is not part of the relationship.
Business Mentors Must Be Prepared
Mentoring relationships often devolve into an FAQ page over coffee. It shouldn’t be a “pick my brain” session when you meet with your mentor. This conversation must be active and include insights on current events.
The best mentors will ask their mentees what topics they want to cover before the meeting. Then you should receive an outline of your key points to focus on, giving you the chance to review critical data points which help you forge forward.
Mentorship Requires an Ability to Listen
Mentors must be willing to listen before they’re offering advice. Without active listening, the amount of helpful advice this relationship provides will be limited in size and scope. You need someone who is both approachable and available.
The best mentors do more than keep their commitments to you. They’re with you, listening with an open mind, offering advice and counsel in ways that are meant to guide you toward success – even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.
Great Business Mentors Are Inquisitive
Business mentors never stop learning themselves. The best relationships pass the experience on from mentor to mentor, giving you an opportunity to do the same one day.
This process begins when we engage in youth mentoring. There will be no future in business without professionals mentoring those under the age of 18.
The statistics of youth mentoring are even more profound than adult-with-adult mentoring in the workplace.
They continue learning about their industry or business. Business mentors involve themselves in their communities, volunteering their time at local schools, scouting organizations, professional associations, and even youth sports.
You should see the leadership experience and skill immediately when you approach a potential mentor the first time. If they aren’t asking you meaningful questions, then the impact on your career and life may not reach its full potential.
Mentorship Requires Diplomacy
The best business mentors are candid and straightforward with their answers. It is a disservice to yourself if you build a mentorship relationship which only tells you what you think you want to hear.
A lively dialogue with a mentor is an excellent experience. The discussion should always be open, honest, and forthright. Constructive feedback should cover the good and bad things you’re doing.
It should be useful feedback. Your business mentors should encourage you to take the reins of each opportunity, make your own decisions, and push yourself toward the best course of action to take.
Mentorship Requires Compassion
Business mentors are forthright because they are passionate about what they do. They also want you to experience success. That authenticity only lasts for so long if you’re not engaged with the mentoring process.
Compassion is a two-way street. Mentors want to see you actively engaged in the steps that lead toward success. Mentees need their mentors to communicate how to recognize these steps or what to do to move forward.
Set specific goals with your business mentors that engage your mutual passions.
Work with someone who offers compassion during failure for best results. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn more than they are a representation of an error.
Steve Jobs made several critical mistakes over his career. He recruited John Sculley to be the CEO of Apple, who would eventually oust him from his company. Jobs thought that Pixar would be a better hardware company instead of an animated films juggernaut.
If you make an effort to learn from mistakes, especially with the help of business mentors, then you’re setting the stage for future success.
Famous Mentoring Relationships
One of the most important mentoring relationships in the past century is one that wasn’t in the world of business. Dr. Benjamin Mays, former Morehouse College President and outspoken critic of segregation before the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, became a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The two first met when King was an undergraduate student at the college. They remained close until King’s assassination in 1968.
“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not line in not reaching your goal,” Mays once said. “The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.”
John Glenn, a former U.S. Senator, Marine, and the first American in orbit, says his civics teacher mentored him in high school.
“I think a mentor gets a lot of satisfaction in a couple of ways,” Glenn said. “They’re doing something constructive, so they feel good about that. And when they see the results of this, with the young people they’re working with, it’s very, very rewarding.”
Ansel Adams is highly regarded for his photography series on national parks and U.S. Japanese internment camps. His black-and-white artistry is still highly sought today through publications, historical archives, and his original work.
Adams says that he was mentored and influenced by his father, Charles. That influence was passed along to Manuello Paganelli, who became a press photographer and published author in his own right.
“Looking back at the brief but significant relationship I enjoyed with Ansel Adams, I can see how important it is to have a warm and caring person leading you by the hand,” Paganelli said. “It’s very difficult to make it in any field without someone who can inspire you and push you in the right direction: someone to offer their blessing and also warn you when you are veering off-course.”
Even Oprah Winfrey Had a Mentor
Oprah Winfrey has broken many barriers for African-American women over the course of her career. She is a powerful CEO, an actress, a talk show host, an author, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work.
Winfrey had the poet and author Maya Angelou as her mentor.
“She was there for me always,” Winfrey remembers, “guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship.”
Winfrey called Angelou her “mentor, mother, sister, and friend.”
“The world knows her as a poet, but at the heart of her, she was a teacher,” said Winfrey. “’When you learn, teach. When you get,’ give is one of my best lessons from her.”
Do You Have a Mentor?
Humans are social creatures. Some may be more extroverted than others, which helps them find business mentors faster or easier in some eyes, but everyone has this opportunity. There is power in the relationship which offers dividends over the lifetime of each person.
Whether you find yourself traveling through casual space to an unknown destination or you have a plan in place for your next entrepreneurial idea, it is essential to remember that you don’t need to walk this journey alone.
Mentors offer you experience that doesn’t come from a textbook. They provide wisdom that only develops after years of solving problems with their own two hands.
The right relationship will help you achieve goals, find success, and set the stage for you to become a mentor in the future too.
Use the resources found in this guide to locate a mentor who will push you forward. Check with your community to discover programs available to you. It may take effort and require you to think about change, but excellent mentoring is advantageous in so many ways that it cannot be ignored.
Make it your resolution to find a mentor this year.