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A business mentor can help you develop your skills, refine your ideas, and determine the direction you want to take your business.
Whether you’re just starting out or already an established business, here’s our guide to how a business mentor can help you achieve your goals.
It can be tricky to know the difference between the types of support available. Coaching may be something you've considered, alongside mentoring. But if mentoring is about sharing knowledge and being a positive role model, what is coaching?
Both mentoring and coaching relationships should have clear boundaries, expectations, and goals.
But while they both aim to help entrepreneurs and business owners grow their skills and confidence, there are some key differences.
A business coach uses coaching skills to give guidance and advice based on discussions. This is usually a professional role that you’ll pay for as a service. For example, you could use a small business marketing coach to help you clarify your advertising strategy.
Coaching usually involves asking incisive questions to help someone arrive at their own answer to a particular problem or issue. The coach is focused on facilitating change in the present, rather than reflecting the past, and encourages action by holding someone accountable.
Business mentors are experienced professionals who want to share their knowledge with someone who could learn from them.
They’ll have extensive experience within an area of business or entrepreneurship and it’s their job to be a good listener and a positive role model.
Mentors usually give up their time for free. This time commitment can often be open-ended but should be organised on a regular basis to build trust and consistency.
Mentors share experience and knowledge to inspire and support someone with their goals and direction. This is usually unpaid and can focus on both personal development and business growth.
Now you understand the difference between coaching and mentoring, why work with a business mentor?
Tina Cox, founder of visual merchandising company, Dapple Pop Studio, shared how her mentoring sessions with Baroness Karren Brady OBE helped refocus her approach to her business.
“The mentoring session felt like a huge reset for me, I was at a stage where I was feeling overwhelmed and a little lost with what to focus on and after speaking with Karren it helped structure my focus and plan out how to move forward with the business.”
And Keshia East, founder of curly hair product company, No Knot Co, said her mentorship “helped to put together all my business ideas I had scrambled around in my head, and helped me to strategise these into plans for every quarter of the year.”
Plus there are many more reasons why you might benefit from a business mentor.
Working with a business mentor should help you feel supported, challenged, and inspired. What’s more, our research shows that 38 per cent of female small business owners would find working with a mentor helpful.
Here are just some of the benefits of working with a business mentor in the UK.
You probably have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses (if not, have a go at doing a SWOT analysis). Working with a business mentor can take this a step further by helping you hone in on specific skills that’ll transform your business. For example if you struggle with late invoice payments, a mentor may be able to offer advice for managing difficult clients or help to boost your confidence.
Being self-employed can be lonely, particularly if you’re a sole trader. A business mentor can help you stay motivated and focused. They’ll help by holding you accountable to things you say you’re going to do and celebrating your successes as you grow.
If it’s just you and your business, making decisions can be challenging. Maybe you’re running a side business and can’t decide if it’s the right time to take the leap and run your business full time. It’s easy to overthink even the smallest decisions sometimes. A mentor is someone who can offer a listening ear and help you explore your options.
A good mentor is someone you can bounce ideas off about your business. Maybe you’re thinking of developing a new product or service and you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you want to try a different marketing approach. Working with a mentor who’s on a similar journey to you (just a few steps ahead) can be helpful as they can share their successes and setbacks.
Keshia from No Knot Co said: “Networking is super important, your network equals your net worth. Embracing failure and overcoming challenges helps us to grow and become better people.”
A business mentor can also help by introducing you to people in their network who might relate to a specific challenge you’re having.
Knowing where to go and who to speak to about business challenges can help build your confidence, knowledge, and community.
Mo Kanjilal is the founder of a small diversity and inclusion company called Watch This Sp_ce. She told us why it's so important to connect with people and grow your business: "It's tough starting and growing a business. You need to talk things through and share ideas.
"Find people with different perspectives and opinions to give you the feedback you need. There will be times where you need to take advice and change direction. That network will give you support along the way when things are tough, and celebrate with you when things go well."
If you’re looking for a business mentor, first make sure you’re clear on your goals so you find the right person to support you.
It’s worthwhile taking a look at some of these resources to get started:
Yet mentoring doesn’t have to come in such a formalised way.
You might already know someone in your network who you trust and admire. They could be another founder like you, just with a bit more experience you’d like to learn from.
Get talking to people. Whether that’s by going to networking events in your industry or joining an online community, it can be a great way to connect with people on similar journeys to you and seek out a mentor.
Regardless of how you find your mentor, it’s important to remember that mentoring is a two-way relationship – both you and your mentor can learn a lot from each other.
Have you worked with a small business mentor or professional business coach? Let us know your experience in the comments below.
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Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.
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