Thursday, November 22, 2007

The power of mentoring

I love reading emails from moms who have loved Robeez from the start! Thank you to Karen from Toronto for her recent email. Here’s a quick run down on Karen’s business: She has worked out the start of her business plan but needs to find someone with expertise in injection-molded plastics. In short, she’s looking for a mentor.

Benefits of a mentor for me

As a new entrepreneur, having a mentor can be extremely beneficial. I had a mentor from the very early days of Robeez. Now, I spend a few hours each month mentoring new entrepreneurs to pass on what I’ve learned.

  • Been there, done that – A mentor can be great to discuss long-term business plans. They have the experience of their successes and challenges and can help guide you in the right direction so that you don’t have to learn everything from scratch.
  • “Am I crazy?” – Sometimes you just need some feedback. You have a new opportunity that initially sounds like a winner but you can see potential for disaster. A mentor can be that person that you call just to bounce ideas off of and ask, “Am I crazy?”
  • Staying on track – With a new business, it’s easy to get very wrapped up in the day-to-day details. But it’s important to take the time to focus on what’s driving your business’ growth, which in the early days is revenue. A mentor can help keep you accountable.

What to look for in a mentor

  • It’s important to find someone that you are comfortable talking with. Your personalities need to click for the relationship to be successful.
  • For most mompreneurs, the best mentor will have a broad range of experience in business, entrepreneurship, and success balancing work and life.
  • Your mentor doesn’t necessarily need to have a background in your industry. Most business concepts can be carried over from industry to industry. However if you can find a mentor who has grown a business similar to yours, all the better!
  • You need someone who won’t let you off easy. If your mentor always thinks everything is “great”, they could be doing you a disservice. By challenging ideas or decisions where appropriate, a good mentor can help you think outside the box.

How to find a mentor

  • First and foremost, just ask. You’d be surprised how willing business people are to share their experiences. I don’t believe in sitting at the sidelines. If you really want to work with someone specific, make a phone call and ASK!
  • Look into mentorship matching programs. I work with the FWE (Forum for Women Entrepreneurs) where I have been matched with the founders of a children’s apparel company. The FWE works specifically in the Vancouver area but there are local business groups in each region with entrepreneurship programs. Google “mentoring” and you find thousands of results.
  • Check with local government agencies. The Government of Canada site has a great network of information, articles, and resources for business. Here’s a specific article on resources for finding a mentor.
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