We created this publication in support of our mission to raise the awareness of entrepreneurs, business owners, small and medium-sized organisations about the importance of life-work balance.

 

Many people consider a good mentor instrumental to the success of their entrepreneurial endeavour. According to recent research, 70 per cent of organisations that take advantage of mentorship remain operational for more than five years, as opposed to the average 30 per cent of new establishments that don’t survive for longer than one year.

It does seem like getting a mentor is a great idea. However, this is a good practice that is yet underutilised. A survey conducted among global entrepreneurs by a leading trade publication indicated that 76% of entrepreneurs consider mentoring important, but just 37% have a mentor.

Should I have a mentor?

Having a mentor can make a great difference for your organisation, especially if you have less experience in being out there on your own. The less personal experience you have, the more you could benefit from a mentor who has already walked the path you are now on. Also, the process can be beneficial both to the mentor and mentee. While the mentee gets valuable advice and knowledge from someone with more experience, the mentor can also gain from the exchange. They get to give back to the community and could get valuable insights from the ways you approach situations. Such a relationship often is a two-way street.

On the other hand, you may think finding a mentor is not right for you. This is a professional relationship, and like any other relationship, it requires an investment of time and energy, which you might not be ready to make. Finding a good fit between you and the person you will be working with is just as important. If you find it too difficult and time-consuming to seek a mentor, it might be better to go it alone. The same would be true if you already have a lot of experience in your field (in such case, you might make a good mentor yourself) or if your area of work is extremely specific, and it would be harder than it’s worth to find someone who could get up to speed with it in a way that would be beneficial to both of you.

What is mentorship?

A mentor is a person with more entrepreneurial experience than you who serves as a trusted long-term advisor and confidante, usually free of charge. Most mentors meet regularly with their mentees, discuss goals, strategies and cases, find solutions as a pair and make sure the mentee acts on whatever next steps they have identified together. Your mentor may also be available for a quick chat when you need advice out of your formal meetings.

Having a mentor is different from the relationships you may have with other advisors. First of all, you may think you can get help and advice from friends or family members, especially if they have experience in your field of work. However, very often, they would serve more as your cheerleaders rather than as honest advisors. In their attempts to support you and keep your spirits high, they might involuntarily skip something important you may need to hear in order to avoid making mistakes or move forward successfully.

You may also wonder what the difference between a coach and a mentor is. While a mentor would be something between a professional advisor in your field of work and a trusted friend, the relationship with your coach is expected to be strictly professional. Your coach is getting paid to provide a specific service to you: help you and guide you until you reach the right conclusions, achieve your goals and act in a certain way. They are not supposed to give you advice or steer you in any particular direction, while a mentor could do that – and it could be to your benefit.

A similar thing is valid for any type of consultant. Like a coach, they are also getting paid by you; therefore, they are working for you. Apart from that giving a different dynamic to your relationship, it also means that they are giving you very specific advice in their particular field, instead of being open to discussing your work in general. This is a benefit in certain situations, but it also may lack the view over the full picture, coupled with the advice a good mentor could provide.

Finding a good mentor

Having a mentor does not cost money, so it’s available even to those with a very limited budget. The only thing you need to spend on this relationship is time. Some people pay their mentors on purpose, as a way to keep themselves invested (literally) in what they are doing and committed to acting upon the advice they receive. However, this is not a common practice, and it has not been proven inconclusively useful.

If you are wondering about places where you could find a mentor, here are some ideas you may consider:

Asking around. If your friends, family or neighbours know people who are ahead of you with regard to business, it may be worthwhile to consider meeting some of them. Among them may be your future mentor.

Networking events. Now more than ever, you can attend a vast selection of business-related events – face-to-face or online. If you meet someone who you can easily talk to and whose general worldview and attitude chime with yours, it may be worth it to continue keeping in touch and exploring that relationship further.

Online. Do your homework, and be active in social networks, especially in groups related to your area of work. If you find entrepreneurs you are on good terms with, consider discussing how you could help each other further.

We have discussed what to do to find a mentor. However, what not to do may be equally important to the success of your mutual work. Here are some suggestions:

Do not ask people you don’t know well to introduce you to strangers. If you are eager to meet someone in particular, and you believe both of you could benefit from mentorship, there is nothing wrong with looking for an introduction. Keep in mind, though, that such an introduction would best be made by someone who knows you and your work well. Otherwise, although they may mean well, this could raise a red flag in the other person’s eyes or create a wrong impression about you.

Make sure your mentor is not overly busy and can spare enough time for you. The ideal mentorship is long-lasting and requires a long-term commitment from both sides. Make sure both of you are aware of that from the outset. Also, make sure your mentor is someone you feel really comfortable talking to and sharing openly with. You will need to discuss some difficult topics along the way, and the more comfortable you are with them, the better.

Make sure there is mutual respect. Although your mentor is most likely to be more experienced than you, and they are supposed to give you advice, their behaviour towards you should be one of respect. Mutual respect and trust are instrumental in a mentoring relationship; therefore, you need them on both sides. If you feel you are being treated like a child or pressured into acting in a way that doesn’t sit well with you, you are free to end the relationship and look for another mentor.

Achieving a good work/life balance

At first glance, you may think this is something only you could do for yourself. However, a good mentor can be beneficial in this area, as well as in the strictly professional side of things. After all, we are all human, not machines, and a good balance between work and the rest of our life goals is crucial for making sure we remain satisfied with everything we do.

In order to achieve a good balance between work and the rest of our lives, we need to keep in mind our goals in each aspect of life (and set them if we don’t have any clearly defined goals outside of our work context) and track progress on them in an adequate manner. We can do that by ourselves, but it would be a lot better if we did it with the help of a partner who can also provide us with guidance and advice.

Here are just a few ideas of how a good mentor can help us achieve a balance between work and the rest of our life:

Goal setting. Are you sure you have the best system for setting goals? If not, some external help might be useful. If your mentor got ahead in their work, it’s very likely that they have a good system of setting goals. It’s worth it to get some feedback on your own system from your mentor, or even develop such a system together if you aren’t using one yet.

Execution. It’s all fine when you sit down and set your goals but do you really do what it takes to execute on them in your day-to-day life? If you feel like you’re prone to finding excuses why you didn’t achieve something or other, you might need an accountability partner. On the other hand, it might be that you aren’t sure which actions would lead you to the desired results, and your mentor may be helpful in defining those.

Tracking your progress. Most good things and most goals that make sense are long-term efforts. On the road to achieving the end results, you will need to pass some milestones, and you will encounter forks on the road. Therefore, it’s important that you track not only а goal achievement but also your progress towards it. A partner in this effort can be very useful to help you split the larger goal into smaller ones and to make sure you track your progress in a meaningful way.

Overall, having a mentor can be highly beneficial to most entrepreneurs, especially to those who are just starting. Here’s to finding your best mentor and to a productive relationship you can have for years to come.

Sources:
1) Forbes: Why Mentorship Is Essential For Entrepreneurs
2) The Balance: Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Business Mentor
3) AARP: How to Find a Mentor for Your Small Business
4) Sylvia Gallusser: 5 Best Practices on Entrepreneur Mentorship
5) Spend Journal: Entrepreneur stories: Why every startup needs a mentor
6) BDC: Finding a mentor: 7 qualities entrepreneurs should look for
7) Inc: How a Mentor Can Increase the Success of Your Business

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