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How to Find a Business Mentor
Are you in the process of setting up a business, or have you a start-up idea that you’re keen to get off the ground? Running your own company comes with lots of challenges, but the rewards and satisfaction when everything comes together makes it well worth the effort. At this early stage though, it’s very much learn-as-you-go, and at times you may feel overwhelmed. Seeking out a business mentor is a great way to grow your skills, knowledge and expertise. They’ll be able to offer invaluable advice when it comes to making key business decisions. Here’s some useful tips on how to select and approach a potential mentor…
Define What You Want
Before you make any contact, have a clear outline of what you want from the relationship. There’s no point in reaching out to a successful businessperson if their experience and skillset relates to a completely different industry or sector. Ideally you want someone who’s succeeded in setting up a business like yours, or worked for (or closely with) a similar company. Drill down into your requirements; maybe you need assistance in putting together a business plan, or perhaps you want to learn about distribution and licensing. Whatever your need, make sure it’s clearly defined – you don’t want to approach someone with a vague or wishy-washy request, it will make you seem amateur and unprepared.
Do Your Homework
Even though you’re reaching out for mentorship, you should still be well-versed in your chosen area. Make sure you know your product, competitors, target audience and consumer journey inside-out. Make a note of your strengths and weaknesses too. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging areas you need some help in… that’s the whole point, after all! Ideally, your mentor will compliment your skillset, so avoid contacting someone who seems exactly like you. Research their various achievements and projects to date – you don’t want to give the impression that they’re just one of many people you’re cold-contacting.
Where to Look
As well as online research, explore local businesses in your area – the perfect mentor might already be right at your fingertips. Your own social networks are also great places to look. As you scan through contacts and friends of friends, you may discover someone who’s set up a successful business and would make the perfect mentor. Spread the word among friends too, word of mouth is still a great way to make connections!
Once you’ve decided on a potential mentor, it’s time to make contact. Use your research to put together a succinct email introducing yourself, summarising your business, outlining your needs and specifying why you think this person would make a great fit. Rather than immediately suggesting a coffee meeting (remember, business owners are busy people!), allow the email relationship to naturally develop – they may well have questions for you before deciding whether they’re interested. Finally, don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back – mentoring isn’t for everyone, they may not feel they’re suitable, or they simply might not have time. Go back to the drawing board and research another suitable option. Good luck!
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