Monday, October 10, 2011

Find a Mentor

A mentor is someone who has been been down the same path you're taking. A mentor is experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance–for no real personal gain. A mentor could be an invaluable resource to you.

There are a number of ways to find a mentor, most people know someone that they have seen start and run a successful business. Most of the time, people are honored to be asked to be a mentor and even if they can't make a long term commitment, they will be willing to spend some time answering questions and taking a phone call here and there. If you don't personally know someone who could mentor you, there are a number of places to look.

  • Government-Sponsored Mentorship Organizations - You might be surprised, but the government offers a great deal of free resources and services to support small business owners, both online and locally.The following are some organizations you can reach out to:
  • •SCORE: Provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners nationwide via its network of more than 12,400 retired business executives, leaders and volunteers. SCORE is sponsored by SBA and has volunteers share their expertise through in-person and online counseling.

    •Small Business Development Centers: Provides management assistance to current and prospective small business owners.

    •Women’s Business Centers: Provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses.

    •Minority Business Development Centers: Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Minority Business Development Agency was created specifically to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in America, with more than 40 centers nationwide.

  • Trade Associations - Many trade associations operate mentor/protégé programs that provide guidance to help you build your business. These mentoring programs are often conducted through a combination of formal one-on-one mentoring sessions and group networking and discussion opportunities with fellow protégés. Business owners might be connected with several different mentors over a period of several months to gain a more holistic experience.

    Most industries are represented by trade associations, as are genders, ethnic groups and business types. If you need help finding a trade association, consult any Internet search engine.

  • Local Colleges/Community and State - I personally feel that utilizing local schools is a no-brainer, do it! If you can't enroll in a business class or two, contact the business department and find out which professors would be willing to mentor a local entrepreneur. If you can make time to take a class, it's the perfect way to not only learn something new, but to build a rapport with the professors and other students some of which will likely be business owners.

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