The idea of mentorship is nothing new. Since the days of ancient Greece, apprentices have worked beside masters to learn a trade. This journeyman tradition was so strong that it even became the foundation of surnames like Carpenter, Fisher and Baker.
Yet mentoring has changed too. It is no longer a simple father/son or master/student relationship. In more recent years, more people have learned their trades in educational settings, rather than from a mentor. But now mentoring is returning to a more modern, cooperative relationship occurring between the mentor and the protégé.
The role of mentoring in small business
Mentoring is recognised as an important component of small business development. Many see a market gap and want to fill that void. Yet, they don’t have the confidence and expertise to succeed without experienced assistance. That strategic issue is where mentors work best.
Benefits for the mentor
New business owners benefit from working with those whose experience and skill is relevant. Veteran business owners also yield their own set of benefits from serving as a mentor. Many are passionate about their business and embrace passing on their knowledge. A good mentor is more than a friend in the business; they offer honest, sometimes critical, insight that a protégé (often called a “mentee”) can apply to their own business.
By embracing the role of a mentor:
- Develop a relationship that becomes a professional networking contact
- Rekindle the excitement that comes with contributing to a new and budding company
- Improve their own confidence and abilities by collaborating and sharing ideas
- See their ideas from a new angle, and use the insight gained to improve their own business.
- Make an extra contribution to developing their field in a way that makes a positive difference
Expectations of the protégé / mentee
There is also a responsibility when an entrepreneur begins working with a mentor. No-one can expect to simply follow a mentor around and hope to absorb knowledge. The protégé must also bring their own ideas and questions to the table. They should provide respectful feedback too. Someone new to a venture will always have some misconceptions about the way things work. Even so, it is important to offer those ideas that act as a starting point from which to build better ideas and new innovation.
While collaboration exists in today’s mentor/protégé relationship, there are still times when mentors will give special guidance that the mentee needs in their own business. Good communication skills come into play. The relationship also benefits from keeping their mentor informed on progress and being held accountable.
What to expect from a mentor
Individual mentoring styles can vary considerably depending on the mentor and whatever ideas are presented. There should always be an environment of mutual respect and a desire to succeed at the forefront of the relationship. Even when a business is not in a competitive market, it is in its best interest to encourage the highest-quality products and efficient and effective operations and marketing.
I am a mentor to business owners that I like and who like me. For both of us that is critical to the ongoing relationship. Anyone choosing a mentor should be sure that there is a healthy respect for each others knowledge and a passion to see success delivered. I approach the work from a collaborative viewpoint; a partnership built on:
- A business model rooted in helping other businesses discover and embrace their strengths and individuality.
- Proven strategies have helped many businesses improve their operations, marketing, and product and service initiatives.
- Never losing sight of our core values of collaboration, objectivity and empowerment.
At the end of the day, no two businesses are exactly alike., which is why mentoring is akin to exploring with the insight of a seasoned traveller; a journey always worth taking.
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