All new business owners or entrepreneurs should find a mentor to guide them in their business journey. It is a harsh reality that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years after launching, according to the Small Business Administration. However, there is growing evidence that connecting businesses with mentors can change this statistic.
Research shows that businesses receiving three or more hours of mentoring have witnessed a boost in revenues and market share. According to a 2014 survey by THE UPS Store, 70% of small businesses that gained mentorship survive more than five years, double the survival rate of businesses that don’t receive such counseling. Moreover, 88% of business owners with mentors maintain that having one can prove to be invaluable. Learning from their mistakes and rebounds offer insight and guidance on making more informed business decisions invaluable. Learning from their mistakes and rebounds offer insight and guidance on making more informed business decisions.
Necole Parker, founder and CEO of The ELOCEN Group in Washington, DC. She attributes mentoring to her company’s solid growth trend as a small business. “I recognized very early on the importance of seeking out those who were where I desired to one day take my business, she adds. “More importantly, being granted the opportunity to tap into the collective wealth of knowledge mentors possess, is an invaluable experience. I’m afforded the opportunity to gain insight from their cumulative lessons-learned, failures, and setbacks, which provides greater clarity when I encounter similar challenges.” achieve revenues and increased business.
Adhering to a mentor’s advice helped Parker to directly land her company’s largest contract ever, which was a five-year $50 million dollar Food and Drug Administration contract in 2013. “Two of my mentors (who are on the BE 100s Industrial/Services Companies list), avail themselves regularly to share ideas, offer advice, and just to listen. Finally, after diligent persistence, my company gained entry into the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection program, where Coca-Cola is our mentor company. As a result, we are receiving strategic guidance on how to grow both in scale and capacity,” adds Parker, who shared her experience on finding mentors as a speaker during the 2015 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
Mentors can make all of the different in your business success, asserts Mahisha Dellinger, CEO and founder of CURLS, the natural hair care products company based in Dallas and author of the autobiographical Against All Odds: From the Projects to the Penthouse. Dellinger was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Steve Harvey Mentoring Camp In Dallas, Texas and 2015 Women of Power Summit.
“I started a business in 2002 knowing very little about running a business. But I stuck with it, through post-partum depression, angst, lack of resources, failures and more,” she recounts. “There are so many people out there who have great business ideas… but zero confidence. Mentors can be the key to building confidence in yourself and your business.”
Dellinger cites SCORE, an organization supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, as a valuable resource. Its national network of more than 11,000 mentors delivers free and confidential advice to entrepreneurs. Business mentors are available for one primary reason – to help you succeed. But it’s a two-way street. Since business mentors can learn from mentees as well, the experience is usually mutually beneficial.
Below are just five key reasons how mentors can give small business owners a competitive advantage. They provide:
A Valuable Resource. A great mentor can be your indispensable adviser and life coach since he or she has traveled the same road and can guide you to your intended destination faster than if you take that trip solo, asserts Dellinger. Common mistakes and business-damaging pitfalls can be avoided. “I was able to tap into key contacts, vendors, expensive industry reports that were out of my reach due to my mentor. A great mentor will enable you to dramatically cut your learning curve,” she adds.
A Support System. You will invest a lot of time and resources into your new business venture. To be successful, you must have a support system for counsel and, in some cases, a motivational boost. . Says Dellinger: “A mentor in your industry—or even not in your industry—who can listen to the latest startup crisis sympathetically is invaluable. When you’re starting a business, having experienced guidance is the best support system of all.”
A Sounding Board. Every idea you come up with won’t be golden. Mistakes are part of the game. Don’t be afraid to question yourself, or allow others to question you. You’d be amazed at what talking through an idea can do. A good mentor can be that much-needed sounding board to assist you in thinking through your idea and helping you find effective solutions.
A Point of Access. Along with decades of experience, valuable mentors come with a vast network of industry connections and decision-makers in your target market. Among one of the key benefits to having a mentor can be to provide access to greater business opportunities. “Key partnerships and introductions will be more difficult to secure, as will gaining the trust of key brands and influencers you may want to work with to accelerate growth,” Dellinger says. “A mentor can put their own reputation on the line for you should they decide you’re worthy of it. Without a mentor you will have to create your own opportunities. This will prove to be a much longer, slower road.”