Mentoring: Help Your Startup Thrive With Expert Advice

Filed Under: November 2020 Issue, Toolbox Articles

In 2019 SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands’ mentors helped start 87 new businesses, supported the creation of 152 non-owner jobs and performed more than 3,000 client services (mentoring and workshop attendance.)  Owners of these businesses and non-profits all found value in having a Mentor 

Finding a mentor is a smart strategic move for a small business owner.  For so many business owners, it’s lonely launching, growing and managing their own enterprise.  The fundamental reason to have a mentor is to have a trusted advisor when making key decisions about your enterprise.  Mentors guide, advise and even encourage business owners/managers to take different directions.  The mentor’s objective view of the business allows them to see issues from a different perspective and offers a business that much-needed fresh perspective. Getting distracted is very easy when you are trying to be opportunistic while at the same time growing the business in a planned way.  Having the opportunity to meet with a mentor on a regular basis gives you that foundation upon which you can make timely, fact based decisions on next steps.

So, what is a mentor? According to Webster’s: Mentor: Noun – A trusted counselor or guide.

Mentors have a lifetime of experiences they are willing to share.  Working with a mentor becomes a learning experience for you, the business owner/manager.  From evaluating business decisions to fostering partnerships, a great mentor can guide you through your professional and personal journey.

Think of a mentor as your “silent partner”—the person who is always there for you to be a source of non-judgmental information and advice.

A Non-judgmental Source
One the biggest benefits of having a mentor is having someone you can ask the seemingly “stupid” questions and get honest, objective answers and maybe some advice.  Unlike friends and family, they won’t sugar-coat the response.  Not only can you ask those tough questions but you can use a mentor to vent frustrations.  Ownership is lonely and sometimes you just need someone to listen to you.  

An Objective Perspective
Mentors look at business issues without “rose-colored” glasses or the personal issues owners/managers experience.  Other than helping you succeed they have no vested interest or personal interest in your business. They provide a perspective that is one step removed from the operator’s.  They can look at the posed situation through the eyes of the clients, the investor, suppliers and subcontractors or local/state/national government. 

Skill Developers
Most mentors come to small business owners with a wealth of experience.  They are both advisers and instructors.  Many of the lessons they learned while managing their enterprises or business units are shared during mentoring sessions. New skill development is a byproduct of having a mentor.

Networking
Mentors not only come with experience, they come with a wealth of contacts with whom you can connect to take your business initiatives to the next level.   These contacts can help in the near term, but also provide a foundation for longer-term relationships.  

Prevent Procrastination
Starting and launching a business is tough work.  It is tough to stay focused over the long term. It is tough not to become frustrated with the lack of progress.  It is tough to maintain the passion for the mission through the roller coaster of launch or just day to day operations.  Having a mentor who has been there and done that will give you the appropriate “kick in the pants” needed to move the process along with the appropriate amount of empathy. 

Often we find that once businesses get up and running they don’t need ongoing mentoring. That’s why SCORE created Advisory Teams—a team of three to four mentors who work with you on an as needed basis, maybe every quarter or every few months, to help you maintain the momentum and help you think how to get to that next level  

At SCORE we are busy helping out so many business owners.  We’re always on the hunt for good mentors who can round out our capabilities.  

A word about mentoring.  Being a mentor, you must be committed in helping others become a fuller version of who they are. Mentors must be givers – not takers. It is a chance to give back.  Mentoring fosters not only professional growth but also personal growth. There isn’t a mentoring relationship where the mentor learns as much or more than the client.  It can develop confidence for the mentee, improve their understanding by using different approaches to a situation and can enhance self-esteem for both the mentor and the mentee.

Free and confidential mentoring is available from the 46 volunteers at SCORE Cape Cod and the Islands.  To explore the opportunities contact SCORE at: https://capecod.score.org or 508-775-4884.  

Marc Goldberg is Assistant District Director of Outreach, Workshop Chair and a Certified Mentor at SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands.

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