Mentoring is the process by which the experience and wisdom are shared between people; the mentor and the mentee. This process is expected to support the mentee’s career, skills and network.
“If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always have had a great mentor at some point along the road. If you want success then it takes hard work, hard work and more hard work. But it also takes a little help along the way. If you are determined and enthusiastic then people will support you.” Sir Richard Branson
For startup founder or small business manager, mentor is like a coach, who will help you to refine your skills and focus on your business idea. Mentor can often give you a different perspective on problems as they are not personally involved with your business like professional advisers such as lawyers, accountants or even friends. For this reason, it’s important to find not only a mentor who has experience and knowledge, but also someone you can trust and feel at ease with.
Why do small business owners need a mentor?
In life, we all need some guidance, someone to bounce off ideas, someone who can sometimes play the devil’s advocate and motivate us too. A well manager mentoring relationship can bring enormous benefits to both the mentor and mentee. Here are 8 key reasons why very startup founder or small business manager need a mentor:
- The manager gets someone who is independent, confidential and non-judgmental to talk to (someone who’s not family or a friend!).
- Mentors can support your business with wide range of skills – from how to raise finance, to market products, dealing with customers, brand building etc.
- Where necessary, they could bounce ideas off and help you make important decisions. For example, many business owners want to grow very fast, which could lead to cash flow problem if not very well managed. The relationship could ensure that you don’t make easily avoidable mistakes.
- Mentor could also give you a push, some confidence and sharper focus when you need it.
- To challenge you and give you assurance that you’re on the right path.
- Your startup mentor is likely to have many professional contacts. These contacts can be valuable asset to you, especially in the early days of your business. These connections generally include suppliers, distributors, and maybe even marketing and advertising connections. Some of these connections may even turn out to be finance providers.
- Opportunity to solicit feedback/advice from a variety of relevant avenues is another benefit of a mentor.
- Your mentor can help you prioritize and get organized. Some tasks are more important than others and knowing what needs to be done first is a valuable lesson that can help things running smoothly and without too much stress. For example, should you advertise before launching a new product or vise-versa. Most mentors have years of experience and know what needs to be taken care of now and what can wait until later.
The benefits of mentorship are not just limited to entrepreneurship. Research in other fields also shows that good mentors tend to improve the performance of their protégés. However, the magnitude of difference between the performance of companies with successful mentors and companies that lack them suggests that the value of effective mentors for startups may be especially high.
Where to find Business Mentor in the Gambia
Finding the right mentor is not an easy task either. Investing in it early on is worth doing. So, if you are in the Gambia, here are few places that could link you to a mentor
- Support institutions – Talk to the local institutions that support entrepreneurs and small businesses in the country. For example the Gambia Startup Incubator, Empretec or the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry are just few names. These institutions can connect you to an experience person who could be your business mentor.
- Existing network – You can also tap into your existing professional network. Make a list of the experienced people you already know. Choose one person and start discussing about mentoring. Do not feel shy or shame to approach another person, if the first person turns down the offer to mentor you.
- Start at Events – Attend local events such as business dinners, forums and seminars, then mark few names as your potential mentor. Learn more about their business and try to communicate with them. You will have to improve on your networking skills.
- Reach out to others in various social networks. Hi, do not just ask a stranger to be your mentor. You need to learn more about their work and allow them to know you too. Top and suitable Social Media is the professional sites like LinkedIn. Many members display their experience, education and achievements.
Whatever may be your reason to look for mentor, remember that mentoring does not only offer advice and guidance, but can keep you motivated as you head out into the business world. Help is out there, so take advantage of it and develop your skills and business.