By Neil King
Hiring a mentor could help you develop your business and yourself, but there are also difficulties too. We look at the pros and cons.
Why do I need a mentor for my business?
An experienced mentor will advise you when you face the issues that are most complicated - and unexpected. After the start-up stage, you will go through several distinct phases of growth and development, and having a ‘go to’ person to ask questions and discuss possible scenarios with will help you avoid personal and professional downfalls along the way. If you are still not convinced, be assured that Warren Buffett attributes much of his success to his mentor, Ben Graham, and that his mentee, Bill Gates, feels the same way about him.
How can I find the right mentor for me?
Well, that’s the most difficult question. Finding a mentor that will help you recognise your own strengths and overcome your own weaknesses, requires that you have already been able to analyse your thoughts, behaviour and actions and how it’s all been affecting your business. Also, it might be wise to look for a person in the same professional field or with similar interests or a professional who is trained as a mentor in order to help you develop the capabilities you lack and enable you to approach challenges differently.
How should I ask someone to mentor me?
Asking someone you don’t know to be your mentor can be intimidating, but most of the people who have experienced the sweat and tears of entrepreneurship are less likely to refuse you. Asking for mentoring is also an important step to make certain you’re both clear on the terms - clarify your expectations, goals and objectives, be clear on the time required and the availability of your mentor, and establish a regular meeting schedule with topics you’d like to discuss.
What if it doesn’t work?
True, it may happen. The mentor may feel that you are not progressing quickly enough or that you’re not able or willing to follow his or her direction. You may also become frustrated if you feel like you’re not getting the guidance you need. In either situation, you might need to think of finding a new mentor, but don’t stay alone – entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and David Packard have chosen to surround themselves with people and continually acknowledge the efforts of others and the importance of the team.
How to make the best out of it?
There’s a thin line between success and failure and this additional support can help you in the quest to end up on the right side of the margin. However, the mentor-mentee relationship represents two sides of the same coin. Regardless of his/her success, your mentor might also need your help and will appreciate it when you can reciprocate. The best mentor-mentee exchange happens when it’s a learning process and a constructive period of self-awareness and self-discovery for both of you.