Being the owner of a business can be a lonely affair at times, for those businesses with staff, generally speaking there is an element of support provided by all the staff towards each other, a good boss will also provide a good level of support, helping their employees with problem solving, developing their skills needed to do their jobs and being there to listen to their ideas and problems. Who supports the business owner, who is there to bounce their ideas off of, who is there to talk them through specific problems, who is there to offer them all the help they need or be able to advise where to get the help they need?
Partners and friends are a good start, but how honest are they in telling the business owner that they may be way off track? The partner’s have a tendency to play things down so as not to upset the apple cart, in an effort to keep the home life pleasant and they may also be too close to the business to understand and grasp the bigger picture. Generally friends will tell them what they think they want to hear, not what they actually need to hear, they don’t do this intentionally, the reality is friends are there to support each other and that can stretch to supporting the bad ideas as well as the good ones.
Is the type of person that runs their own business, the type of person that doesn’t need support? Is this person so resilient and forward thinking that they have the ability to anticipate problems and overcome them before they happen? Maybe this type of person is the perfect people manager and keeps everyone happy and again anticipates issues and puts steps in place to ensure problems never arise? I don’t know about you, but when I think back to all the bosses I every had, none of them fit that model, indeed as a business owner and a manager of staff for nearly 20yrs, I don’t fit that model either 🙁 I think it is safe to say, everyone needs help, support, advice and training from time to time, but where does a business owner go to get such help and what would they need to take into consideration when deciding who should help?
Before any business owner goes and looks for help, they need to have a full understanding of what they are trying to achieve for their business. What are the business goals for this year? What are their own goals? If they have staff what goals do they have for them? When a business owner knows where they are going, it is easier for them to identify the help they need to get there!! If a business owner does not have clear goals for any part of their business, don’t worry, there are resources that can help with that too.
A good business mentor is often a great place to start, the good ones have a good all round understanding of what it takes to run a good business and will have their specialist areas of expertise. They will also be able to direct you to other specialised help, as they often have a good network of business experts around them. Where do you find a good one? Like everything else in life, if you know of someone who has used a business mentor then ask them about it, a referral is definitely the best way to start, it’s no guarantee of course because your business’s needs will be different from the referral source but it is a good place to start from. Go to your local government website, they will have departments or partners that are set up to encourage and grow local businesses often with funding options in place, depending on the need for your business.
Keep an eye on the business section of the local press, this can be a great resource, many experts from organisations helping business provide commentary on local issues affecting business and many of these organisation advertise regularly. Many regions / states have Enterprise Trusts set up specifically to help start up and growing business, all of these organisations will have business mentors either working within their organisation or partnered with their organisation.
In this day and age, don’t forget searching on all the major search engines. Here is a tip, a good business mentor will have a great website, it will be easy for you to navigate, it will talk about a variety of problems facing business owners and how they can help and they will have resources on their site at no cost providing insights into ways of better running a business, these usually are in the form of blogs or document downloads. In this day and age where every business should have a website, if a business mentor, an advisor to business, has not got this right for their own business, you should ask yourself how good a job will they do for you?
A good business mentor will help you in the following ways:
- Approachable – a good business mentor will be approachable, will communicate on the same level as the business owner and will be someone the business owner feels completely comfortable talking about their business too.
- Good Listener – a good business mentor will listen fully to what you have to say, getting a understanding of your business and the issues you are facing, this is very important quality because if they pick up anything wrong or miss something you have said, there potential solution may be off the mark.
- Good Communicator – some of the best mentors I know are brilliant at communicating, always relaying back to their clients what has been discussed (confirmation they have listened well). Presenting ideas and strategies in a fashion that the business owner can understand and implement.
- Logical – having developed an understanding of the issues facing a business and good mentor will have a logical planned approach to sorting out the issues in a timely manner so that the business owner can then move on to more strategic work on the business, thus encouraging growth.
- Imaginative – good mentors are often ‘ideas people”, their minds are always whirring away looking for the best solution for their clients, many of their ideas are good practical ideas that can be implemented quickly with immediate positive effect, other ideas come from experience that the business owner would not have and then there are the ‘left field” ideas, these are the ones that really challenge a business owner, they are the ones that often require a shift in thinking and have the potential to really take a business to the next level.
- School Teacher – a good business mentor will have “annoying” (my customer’s words!!) characteristics of a school teacher, never shy to point out areas that need improving, never shy about giving a business owner ‘home work’ (which ironically does not get done at home!!) and will always follow through to make sure that ‘home work’ is completed, making the business owner 100% accountable for their actions.
A business mentor should be looked on as an investment in your business, the money spent with a business mentor should be vastly out weighed by the value they have provided to your business both in business direction and improvements to the bottom line. A business mentor does not need to be a long term expense, utilise what you can from a mentor now to jump start or boost your business, once it’s back on track, you should always have the option of reducing or ceasing the reliance of the mentor’s services, always in the knowledge that you can pick up the phone at any time and bring them back on board for more help or direction.