Tapping into experience
You probably get well-intentioned advice from family and friends. However, good business advice spoken from commercial experience is another matter entirely.
That’s not to say it’s hard to find, but discerning the wheat from the chaff in the Internet age is sometimes less than straightforward – especially if matters are pressing. This is why, for good times or bad, developing a network of peers or seeking out a business mentor can be a great idea.
It’s important to decide on what you’d like to achieve by the end of the mentoring process, so be clear about your objectives. Brainstorm a list of the attributes and qualities of the ideal mentor for your business.
There are two main types of mentors – one that’s paid as a professional. The other is a fellow small business owner happy to share their experiences. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
The U.S. Government offers a wide range of free resources and services to support small business owners, and is a great place to start.
- SCORE Mentors
This agency provides free counselling, mentoring and advice for small business owners throughout the U.S. Their experienced mentors provide advice on every aspect of business planning, start-up, management and growth. You can search for one, or request one, through the Find A Mentor section of their website.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
SBDCs provide management assistance, including financial counselling, marketing advice and guidance. Some provide more specialized advice, such as on exporting or manufacturing. You can find out more about them and how to contact one of the 900 service delivery sites through their section on the U.S. Small Business Administration website.
- Women’s Business Centers
These focus on women entrepreneurs, designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses. They seek to ‘level the playing field’ for female entrepreneurs, and help them overcome obstacles they face in the business world. They’re located throughout the U.S., and you can find one near you via their search tool.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers
These agencies provide veterans with business training, counselling and mentoring. They’re located throughout the U.S., and you can find one near you via their search tool.
- Minority Business Development Agency
MBDA advisors hep minority business owners gain access to capital, contracts, and market research, as well as providing business counselling and mentoring. They have a comprehensive website that outlines their services and resources.
BusinessUSA.gov also has a list of federal counselling programs that are worth checking out.
Finding a business mentor online
For financial or legal advice it would be best to meet face-to-face with your banker, accountant or lawyer, depending on the sort of advice you need. But there are a number of additional resources you can turn to for assistance.
Whether you want to find a mentor or be a mentor, this is one of the top sites from which to get started. The free community of mentors offers advice on all aspects of business management.
- Entrepreneur Mentor Society (EMS)
EMS is a non-profit organization that aims to foster the education and development of young and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area.
- S. Chamber of Commerce
This is an organization all small business owners will benefit from by becoming a member. Their networking and programs are ideal opportunities to find a business mentor in your industry. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to join today.
This page has an alphabetical list of all the industry trade groups in the U.S. It’s a great way to get in touch with people in your industry, so that you can forge networking contacts and research business mentors. Other options
The more involved you are in your industry, the better you’ll get to know people and tap into their knowledge and experience. That’s why it’s important to get out and about and network – go to as many industry events, trade shows, seminars and workshops that you can. You’ll find business mentors in people such as:
- Bank managers. It’s important to develop a good relationship with the Small Business Advisor your bank has assigned you. They’re experience in small business, they’ll take the time to get to know you and your business, and they’ll have great advice in terms of management and growth. They’re well worth taking advantage of.
- Professional consultants. These people aren’t free, but their expertise is well worth paying for. A Google search will help you find professional consultants near you.
If you maintain your networking contacts, you’ll already be in touch with many business colleagues whose advice you can make use of.
Business mentoring can give you a fresh perspective on your own business. It can propel your business into profitable areas that you didn’t consider before. Take the first step towards finding a business mentor today – you and your business will benefit greatly in the future.
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