One of the most important steps that an entrepreneur can take is to find a mentor. Virtually every great leader has depended on mentors and advisors to reach their goals. The well-known innovator Steve Jobs credited his success in part to his mentors, renowned business executives Ed Woolard and John Sculley. While the majority of entrepreneurs do not have famous mentors, this does not reduce the value of their guidance, which can range from providing advice on processing failure to brainstorming strategies. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs often do not have mentors, as highlighted in studies conducted by Kabbage, Inc., in 2018.
The researchers found that more than 60 percent of the founders of small businesses lacked mentorship of any kind during the launch of their ventures. This data might relate to the high failure rates among small businesses: 20 percent within the first year, 30 percent within the second year, and 50 percent within five years. Regardless, 92 percent of small-business owners agreed that mentors directly impact growth, success, and overall company survival. Nearly 90 percent of those without mentors wished that they had one. Thus, the challenge may lie in the effort to try to find a mentor, rather than in a lack of understanding about the importance of having one. How do entrepreneurs go about finding a mentor? The following options may help:
Entrepreneurs who are unfamiliar with SCORE should consider checking out the organization right away. Encompassing over 11,000 volunteers across 320 chapters in the United States, the nonprofit organization SCORE provides support to people who want to start and expand their own businesses. Those located near a SCORE chapter can request a free face-to-face meeting with a local mentor to discuss business ideas and offer advice. While the relationship is intended to be temporary, there is the potential for a long-term arrangement.
2. Networking Events
While networking is not always at the top of an entrepreneur’s to-do list, having a large professional network can have many benefits. Entrepreneurs who attend networking events regularly can expand their contacts and develop new connections. Ideally, individuals will cultivate as many professional relationships as they can. During these events, building relationships is more critical than discussing goals and plans. A potential partnership may arise from this, which can serve as a catalyst to talk about ideas and explore mentorship opportunities.
3. Social Media
In the business world, social media is becoming increasingly important. Twitter and LinkedIn, in particular, have emerged as great tools for connecting with the biggest players in any given industry, geographic location, or specific demographic. People can use such resources to engage with these individuals. After becoming further acquainted with these individuals, entrepreneurs can attempt to broach the question of mentorship. However, the engagement should start off in a fairly casual and unassuming way.
4. Existing Business Contacts
Young entrepreneurs most likely have a much wider network than they think, and a suitable mentor may already exist among their business contacts. People can consider the connections they formed in school, as well as professors or business leaders within their industry, and reach out for input about their own ideas. These individuals may show more of a willingness to engage than expected and provide advice, as well as the potential for a more lasting relationship.
5. Women’s Business Centers
The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) oversees a network of 100 centers throughout the United States that support female entrepreneurs through training, financing opportunities, guidance on business development, and mentorship. The AWBC also offers conferences, which are an effective way for female entrepreneurs to meet other accomplished women and connect with potential mentors.
6. MBDA Business Centers
Another good resource is the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which is part of the Department of Congress. This organization works to develop minority-owned businesses through business centers across the country. They are mostly located in areas with a high concentration of minorities and provide tailored assistance and services, including connections to potential mentors.
7. Veterans Business Outreach Centers
Veterans, military spouses, National Guard & Reserve members, as well as transitioning service members can benefit from Veterans Business Outreach Centers. These centers offer assistance in starting and growing small businesses. Individuals can also find other successful entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds to help them navigate the complicated business-development landscape. A list of these centers and other resources for veterans are available at SBA.gov.