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Many Hands Make Light Work: The Value of Mentoring

Monday, August 11, 2014   By Mike Reddy



Small business owners possess a seemingly infinite to-do list, constantly checking things off and adding more to the agenda. In my business coaching and advisory engagements I often notice that the pursuit of operational perfection comes at the cost of personal development and self-improvement.

But self-improvement and personal development need not be neglected. Choosing a mentor is a good way to ensure that you, as a business owner, continue to grow, learn and progress successfully along with your business.

Begin by accepting the fact that you, like everyone else, don’t know everything. We all have limitations so play on your strengths and identify your weaknesses, selecting a mentor who complements those limitations.

Not sure how to find a mentor?

If someone doesn’t come to mind during your personal self-assessment, join professional or industry groups, attend seminars, and get involved in your community. This is the easiest way to be surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs who are often willing to act as a mentor and teacher to self-starters like you.

We all enjoy sharing what we know and, providing you are also willing to share, you will find there is a vast untapped resource around you.

If you are willing to engage a mentor on a professional level, consider your accountant (if you are confident their skills are not limited to number-crunching) or a suitably qualified business coach.

If you decide to take up the offer of a free mentor, start by understanding their day-to-day responsibilities.

This is the time to ask questions and take notes, however, you should be mindful of the fact they are running a business and generously allowing you to gain valuable experience through their eyes.

As you begin your new enterprise, advice will flow from unexpected outlets - family members, friends, colleagues - everyone will have some “valuable” advice to offer you.  A mentor  can  help you sift through the pile of suggestions; as they have already “been there, done that.”

For that reason alone, you should put more weight on their suggestions than those of the people around you.

Business mentors are there to answer questions and provide perspective, but like any other type of coach, they are also there to boost your confidence as well as to provide support and encouragement.

Be sure to choose someone you respect, a mentor with similar values and who makes you feel comfortable. Go with your gut instinct here and select a mentor who will challenge you to always strive for more.

Additionally, being able to challenge your mentor is a way to encourage collaborative learning, allowing your mentor to also gain something from your interactions.  If your mentor intimidates you, you will not enjoy the fruits this symbiotic relationship can provide.

Remember securing a mentor is much like any other acquisition - you must consider the return on your investment. The relationship must be constant, the impacts tangible and the developments obvious.

As a rule of thumb, if three months go by without much mentor interaction, it may be time to consider a change.

Mentoring is not just for  business owners and their peers – you should consider developing a mentoring programme within your business.

Mentoring within can help  boost your employees growth and satisfaction while cultivating a positive company culture with improved morale.

Mike Reddy is a Chartered Accountant, business coach and advisor helping businesses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast to easily increase their profits and cash flow. He is currently President of the North Sydney Chamber of Commerce, a Regional Councillor for Sydney North East and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Sydney leadership team. As well as advising businesses, Mike presents business development seminars and webinars and is regularly contacted by the media to comment on small business matters. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.