How To Find A Business Mentor And Why All Entrepreneurs Need One
Do you think the richest man in the world did it all himself, using only his own knowledge and experience to get him where he is today? Not even Bill Gates is cocky enough to not ask for help. The Harvard drop-out didn’t start out on his own, he had Warren Buffet to help him out.
Buffet mentored Gates, teaching him about how to deal with difficult business situations and think about where he was going in the future, the far-away future. Buffet taught Gates to use the hard lessons he had learned from his own experiences, so Gates wouldn’t make the same ones. And Bill Gates credits him for that—Buffet’s one of the reasons he’s now the richest man in the world.
Bill Gates had Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi. No one is too good for a mentor and a little help, and you can’t be afraid to ask for it.
You’ve probably asked yourself the same thing, Do I need a mentor? As a small business owner, heck yeah you do. But finding the right mentor can be tricky, intimidating, and expensive. It can also feel like a luxury because where will you find the time to search and meet with a mentor when you have a million other business owner things going on?
You’re an entrepreneur, a life-long learner, and making continued education as a business owner a priority is something you need—it’s something every entrepreneur needs.
Let’s discuss exactly how to find a business mentor so you can start making those connections and start up some valuable conversations.
Everyone Needs a Mentor … Especially Entrepreneurs
If you think you can learn everything on your own, you’re acting foolish. Every entrepreneur needs someone to talk about mistakes, ideas, and different perspectives. Mentorship is an accelerator program for not only industry knowledge but industry and business wisdom—the stuff you’re less likely to anticipate as a young pup. They have the experience, and it’s valuable to find someone that will share it with you.
Following a leader and gaining insight will increase your odds of success and help you avoid bad choices and unexpected obstacles that probably won’t pop into your not-as-experienced mind. It’s OK to not think of it all, no one does.
Mentors can become lifelong friends, people who you spend a lot of time with and share fears and experiences with that you wouldn’t tell just anyone. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, mentors make it less so. Whatever you’re going through, they probably have too. Use them as a shoulder to cry on and as a wise sounding board. They’ll you the friggin’ truth without flinching, without holding back the stuff that’s hard to hear. If you’re doing dumb stuff, they’re going to point it out. They want you to hear these kinds of things so you can avoid catastrophes. With their help, you can look at your business more objectively and avoid acting on emotion or simply with an unexperienced mindset.
Another monumental benefit of using a mentor for continued education is that you can leverage your mentor’s network. What if you had the chance as an industry newbie to mingle with some of the most successful people in your industry and some potential investors. Get to know your mentor’s business contacts and the movers and shakers in your industry. And nurture the right relationships to secure funding and future knowledge and collaboration.
Where Do Mentors Hang Out, Exactly?
A mentor’s great to have but how do you meet mentors? Can you find free business mentors and people who are willing to help you just to show support? Are there formal business mentorship programs near you?
Here are some great ways to find a business mentor that can be there for you and help you take the next smart steps toward entrepreneur greatness.
Do you frequently attend networking events in your area? Find some groups of professionals that meet weekly, monthly, or whatever works for you and attend their networking events. Joining a conversation with other professionals in your area is a great to chat about the world of business and is also a great way to seek out mentors. Find a group that interests you and give it a try. You may find that an industry mentor is waiting to share their knowledge with you.
Industry Conferences and Expos
Head to the place where people are ready to learn more. Expos, conferences, industry events— they’re fun. What business owner doesn’t love spending a weekend mingling and talking all about their own industry with others who love it too? These types of events are a great way to meet other industry professionals and learn all about what they’re up to. Strike up a conversation with a speaker at the event, they probably have some great insight they can give you. Or if you’re running a booth at an expo or conference go deeper into conversation with event guests and see what they’re all about. You may end up connecting with someone you can look up to and lean on.
We all have competitors. Whether they’re local, regional, or national competitors, they all play a role in making us find a way to stand out in our industry. But just because a competitor is a competitor doesn’t mean you have to be arch enemies. Find companies that are killing it in regions or verticals that you don’t operate in. Give them a call or reach out to them by email. If possible, take them out to lunch and pick their brains. We can learn a lot about our own work from someone who is currently doing (and struggling) through the same stuff we are.
Small Business Development Centers
Small business development centers know exactly how to find a business mentor. These types of resources are specifically around to provide mentorship programs and have great resources, advice, and expertise about running and starting a small business. Most of these development centers even provide free consultations to business owners before deciding whether or not to invest in their resources long-term. They’re able to provide this awesome convenience because they are usually funded by private sectors and grants.
Similar to the idea of small business development centers, SCORE is an organization that offers development resources to entrepreneurs. SCORE is the largest network of volunteer expert mentors in the United States. Each of these mentors has a background in business and provides free consultations as well. Discuss your business ideas with them and they will give you valuable insight and actionable advice that you can put to use right away. There are 320 chapters across the country, find one near you.
Does your city have a budding startup culture? If so, there are probably areas in your city where entrepreneurs can pitch concepts to potential investors and partners, can meet business masterminds, and can grab aftershifters. Ever heard of One Million Cups? They’re a great startup incubator that meets once a week to listen to pitches and mingle upon local business owners. One Million Cups is located all over the United States too, find a community near you
Friends and Family
Some of your longtime friends and family might have insight on how to find business mentors or could be mentors themselves. Look in your inner circle. Do you know what your circle of people is up to business-wise? What are their goals and where are they headed? It’s likely that your group of guys doesn’t usually talk business on weekly poker nights. That’s OK, but it’s a good idea to start up that conversation at some point. You may even find out that old Aunt Betty used to work with a guy who is now crazy successful in your industry and she never thought to bring it up. You never know until you ask.
Once upon a time, LinkedIn was a boring social media site that your grandpa and dad were into. But LinkedIn isn’t just a Facebook for old guys anymore. The social platform has become a leading spot for recruiting and meeting like-minded professionals. There are currently 303 million professionals on LinkedIn, that’s a lot of people to get information from. A conversation could be started over LinkedIn with anyone, even someone in your industry that lives across the world. Find these people and pick their brains. Here’s a top for LinkedIn: introduce yourself casually, don’t lead with your ask. After an introduction and further information about what you both do, having a conversation around mentoring type topics is appropriate.
Get Involved in Your Community
Many businesses in your community are probably involved in community events and make a point to become involved with the people they’re selling to as often as possible. Volunteering yourself can show great gratitude toward the customers and organizations in your area. But how do you find a business mentor through becoming involved with your community, most of them probably aren’t directly involved with your industry? Strike up conversations with people you wouldn’t normally interact within your area. When you’re open to it, you never know who you will meet. You can even find out where retirees hang out and take away their past experiences and knowledge and apply them to your own business practices. The people right in your own backyard could have a lot of wisdom to offer.
Reno’s Favorite Networking Group
In Reno? Like beer? Bareknuckle hosts weekly Brewing Up Business Meetings where we invite local professionals to come talk business and drink beer. These badass entrepreneurs talk all things business–what’s working, what’s not, marketing, seasonal sales, even discussing topics like how to find a business mentor. Plus, you’ll be able to meet tons of professionals at this networking event, building connections and possibly finding a mentor of your own.
Stop on by. We meet every Wednesday from 4-5pm at a local hangout. Check out our Facebook group to check out where you can meet us next.