(The following article was reposted with permission from Fran Tarkenton and the smallbizclub.com)
For the June 29 Success Saturday event, Fran Tarkenton met with Mark Dobosz, President of the SCORE Foundation, at National Small Business Week in Washington, D.C. At an event focused on celebrating entrepreneurs and giving them the best chance to succeed, Fran and Mark discussed one of the best things a small business owner can do to improve his or her chance of succeeding: mentorship.
SCORE has 13,000 volunteer mentors across the country who coach and mentor other business owners using the experiences and knowledge they have gained from careers in business. Studies have found that someone with a mentor has a 4-times better chance of surviving the first 18 months in business than someone who doesn’t. Mark shared three major things to keep in mind when getting a mentor.
1. Get an Objective Set of Eyes
One of the great benefits of a mentor is that they can look at your situation—and your problems—from a different perspective, giving you an objective look at what is happening. A mentor might see challenges that you haven’t realized yet, and can help get in front of problems. It’s important not to make important decisions without talking to other people, people who know more about the subject than you do. You don’t have to know anything; take the time to go to someone else and say, “Here’s what I’m doing—what do you think?”
A mentor can help you keep focused on reality, on what you need to do and what your situation really is. A mentor can help you see what your problems are and how much you’re able to handle. A mentor from SCORE is only there to see the business owner succeed.
2. Fill a Void or Share Common Experience
Mentors can help you in many different ways. First, they can help fill a void in your own skillset and experience. A mentor brings a wealth of knowledge in various areas, depending on their own gifts and skills, and can help you develop your own skills in areas where you are weaker. Great mentors have specific abilities and insights relevant to the challenges you are facing, to the needs you have. As an entrepreneur, it’s very easy to get so focused on one thing, or the things we love, and neglect the things we don’t enjoy as much. You might be great at product development, but struggle with marketing. Or you understand marketing, but don’t understand bookkeeping. The list goes on. There is always someone who can help.
But a mentor also relates to you through common experience. We learn best from others who can truly understand where we are because they have been there themselves. You want someone with not only a lot of knowledge, but with experience that relates to your circumstances. It’s not only advice, but advice from people who understand.
3. Taking the Advice
The hardest part of any mentorship is not getting advice; it’s taking it and putting it into action. When you have a mentor, take their advice seriously and really think about the suggestions they make to you. Their only goal is to make sure you succeed. While they can give all the best advice in the world, but in the end, it’s up to you to get out there and do it. That’s why it is important for a mentor to deliver things in bite-sized pieces—to give entrepreneurs manageable tasks to go back, think about, and then come back and discuss. Never be afraid to tell a mentor that you don’t understand something; getting more information will help you not just get advice, but use it.
You can learn more about SCORE at http://raleigh.score.org, and set up an appointment with a local mentor any time.