When it comes to finding accurate information about starting or running a business, it can be hard to know who to ask or where to look. Reading and researching are a very good place to start, but it can be even more valuable to find an expert who can give you face-to-face advice.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you establish a “database” of information sources that can help you run your business effectively. This could be other small business owners with some ‘years in the game’, conferences and workshops, credible websites relevant to your industry and a range of other sources.
All of the above are important points of reference, but when you have identified specific problem areas or challenges you can’t seem to resolve on your own, it may just be time to seek the advice of a business mentor.
What exactly is a mentor?
In general terms, a mentor is an experienced (usually older) person who guides another person’s development in his or her education or career. In the context of a small business, a mentor would be someone who helps you gain more experience in the various areas of running a successful business.
A mentor should give you ideas, offer potential solutions to problems and help you set goals for your business, without actually doing it for you. Essentially, he or she is a teacher rather than merely a consultant. This means you should be open to listening and learning.
Advantages of having a mentor
- If you can’t afford expensive and often time-consuming training courses, a mentor can (if you are lucky) provide his service at no cost to you.
- With a wealth of experience behind him, a mentor can act as someone you can turn to for professional, objective advice and guidance
- With the help of an experienced mentor, you can avoid making common mistakes by being pro-active in identifying potential problems, and implement solutions that have proven successful in his or her experience
- A mentor can give you hands-on training in their area of expertise and be available for questions as and when issues come up
Being an entrepreneur is challenging enough without having to go it alone. Don’t wait until your business is in trouble before asking for help. Find a suitable mentor and allow them to bring out your best.
Source: This article first appeared on the SME Toolkit South Africa website – smetoolkit.southafrica.org
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