Written by: Jeff McDonough, Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank
The myriad responsibilities that fall on a small business owner can make the role both empowering and isolating. But beyond the walls of every small business owner’s home office or brick and mortar shop is a network of other professionals with diverse experience and advice that can help guide and inspire their cohorts. In honor of National Mentorship Month this January, we are celebrating the value of mentorship among small business owners and how you too can find a mentor – or become one to someone else.
Grow from your own experience – and theirs
Over your months or years as a small business owner, you have likely found that the decisions that once cost you several nights’ sleep are now instinctual, and day-to-day operations are second nature. It is said that experience is the best teacher, but as you continue to grow as a small business owner, you need not rely on your personal experience alone. Learning from fellow business owners can improve your decision making and help you avoid costly mistakes. After all, if experience is the best teacher, trial and error is the lesson plan.
Learn what to expect
A mentor can be an invaluable resource to the longevity of your small business. Gaining wisdom from someone who has been in your shoes can give you the foresight to predict the impact of your decisions. Your mentor may also have insight into market trends that can help you distinguish between small blips in demand and larger shifts that could have long-term effects on your business. Learning what to expect from someone who has been there before can help you stay ahead of obstacles in your path to success.
See beyond the horizon
In addition to spotting obstacles, a small business mentor can also help you identify opportunities on the horizon. These opportunities can take on many different forms, from expanding your business into new markets to taking on a partner with a set of skills complementary to your own.
Focusing on the everyday operations of your small business can sometimes prohibit you from seeing what lies ahead. Rather than setting your dreams of small business growth aside with the best intentions to return to them one day, consider reaching out to your small business mentor. Simply looking at your small business through a wider lens can give you and your mentor the perspective to see beyond the horizon.
Learn how to manage the stresses of business leadership
The amalgamation of financial, management and emotional stress unique to small business owners can be one of the greatest challenges you will face. Reaching out to someone who can relate to you when these stresses begin to mount can be critical to helping you maintain your work-life balance. Your small business mentor will likely have some advice about handling this stress and how to best prioritize and delegate your responsibilities. And through your mentor’s guidance, you may find yourself picking up a few leadership skills to pass along to a future mentee of your own.
Identify what is stopping you from finding a mentor
Tackling obstacles head on is one of the characteristics that places small business owners into a league of their own. It’s also this sense of determination and independence that can make asking for help a seemingly insurmountable challenge. If the idea of asking for help is preventing you from seeking out a small business mentor, consider this: would you offer assistance if given the chance?
Another way of looking at mentorship is to consider it a tool for honing one of your business’ most valuable assets: you. Learning from your mentor’s experiences, anticipating trends and opportunities, and discovering ways to manage your role as a small business owner are immeasurable benefits of your relationship.
If you are interested in seeking out a mentor, there are many resources to help you find the right match. A good place to start is with SCORE, a non-profit resource partner of the Small Business Association. Their website offers a search tool for finding a mentor near you.
Consider sharing your own experience
Why not share your own experience as a small business owner? SCORE can help you become a mentor, share your expertise through advice and education, or volunteer as a workshop presenter. Everyone’s experience is unique, and your guidance can help shape the future of a growing small business.
The value of mentorship is immeasurable, and it’s not only the mentee who benefits. Helping someone through the various challenges of small business ownership can make mentors better leaders too. Mentorship can help small businesses grow stronger, bolstering the communities around them. In honor of National Mentorship Month, consider how a mentor could help you reach your goals, and how you could help a fellow small business owner achieve theirs.
For more Small Business Management tips, visit our Business Blog.