What exactly is a mentor?
Mentors can be invaluable to someone just starting out in business; they can provide the advice and guidance you need to accelerate your business endeavour. You should remember that having a mentor does not guarantee success, nor does it mean that you can rely on them to make the tough decisions for you. A mentor is there to provide advice and act as a sounding board for your ideas; they are not there to run your business for you.
How does a mentor differ from an adviser?
As the name suggests, an adviser will give specific advice about a route which they feel should be taken. In contrast, a mentor will help guide the business owner towards making their own decision. They will typically use their own experience to suggest what they would do in your position, and point out things you may have missed, but will ultimately leave you free to make your own decisions.
A good mentor will take a vested interest in you and your business and will want to see you succeed. An adviser is typically there purely in a business capacity rather than to forge a personal connection. A mentor will not run your business for you, but will provide guidance along the way to allow you to make informed decisions as you build your business.
Will I have to pay for a mentor?
Typically mentors are members of the business community who offer their expertise free of charge as a way of giving back. However, there are professional mentors out there who take on this role as their primary job. In these cases you will need to pay for their services.
How do I find a mentor for my business?
Finding someone who claims they will be able to help you is easy; however, finding someone who can actually live up to this claim is something else. You need to ensure whoever you choose is a good fit for your business, and has enough experience within the field you are working in to be able to offer sound and practical guidance which will be a benefit to you.
Before approaching anyone to act in a mentorship role, you need to be clear with yourself about what exactly you want them to help you with. A mentor will not be able to provide assistance with every part of your business; moreover they will usually have a specific skillset. This could be with sales, marketing, financing, or distribution. Once you know what you require from a mentor, finding one will be much easier.
When looking for a mentor, the following places are great starting points:
- The Prince’s Trust provides business advice and support to young people aged 13-30 years old. This programme can be done both in person and also via an online platform. Support is given over a period of three months, with two-hour weekly sessions. Following the completion of a 4 day Explore Enterprise Course, you will be allocated a mentor who will support you during the initial years of your business launching.
- Depending on your current financial circumstances, you may be entitled to apply for the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) which is a government based scheme. This programme blends mentorship with financial assistance to get your business of the ground. As well as being paired with a business mentor to assist with the practicalities of starting a business, applicants are also given a weekly allowance and offered a business loan. In order to be eligible for the scheme you must be over the age of 18, and in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support.
- Mentorsme a great platform which allows anyone to connect with a potential mentor. Mentorsme can be used by any type of entrepreneur regardless of their age or financial situation. The website allows you to connect with a mentor based on shared business interests, ensuring you are working with someone who ‘gets’ your business.