Whether you’re just starting out with your new company or you’ve been in the industry for years, everyone can benefit from the guidance and advice of a mentor.
Mentors can provide practical knowledge that you don’t have to learn the hard way and can be a reliable second opinion if you’re looking for someone to turn to. Mentoring is beneficial for both the mentor and mentee. The mentor is able to give back, develop their leadership skills and learn new ideas from the mentee. The mentee will gain a solid sounding board, support and wisdom from the mentor’s experience.
So how do you exactly find a mentor? Here are a few of the options of where to look when it comes to finding a business mentor.
SCORE is an organization that is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and reach their goals. The nonprofit has been around since 1964 and has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs. It has a network of more than 10,000 volunteer business experts. SCORE is a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, so their mentoring services are free, regardless of the number of times you meet with a mentor.
On their website you can request a mentor and your local chapter will pair you with the best mentor based on your business question or you can browse mentor profiles. You can request to meet with a mentor via email, video, phone, online chat or in person.
NALP members can take advantage of the free Trailblazer mentoring program, which pairs individuals with a seasoned industry professional. Participants can choose from Trailblazers that have expertise in a specific service area such as landscape management or design/build. Mentees can choose to meet with their mentor at the Trailblazer’s company, their own company or virtually. Many who have used the program say it has helped them develop the processes they need to have in place in order to grow.
“Everybody I think needs to do a Trailblazer visit,” says Deborah Wade, co-owner of Wade’s Lawn Service, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. “Even the ones who are really developed in their company could still do a Trailblazer visit with someone else because you can always learn something. You never get to the place where you’ve just arrived, and you know everything. So, you can always learn, and you can always grow and you can always develop.”
A little more informal option than the Trailblazer program is to contact some of your indirect competitors. Others in the industry are often eager to support the professional development of their peers. By partnering with those who offer similar services, but aren’t in the same market area or those who are in the same market area but offer different services, there is less hesitation in sharing information and best practices.
Another free mentoring service is MicroMentor. Individuals can set up a profile as an entrepreneur or a mentor. Entrepreneurs can search for a mentor who is a good fit and contact the mentor to set up a mentoring relationship. This platform is international, and entrepreneurs and mentors can make connections in the same country or with those in other countries.
While it might be a little bit longer before in-person networking events are back in full swing, taking the time to talk to others you don’t know during these events, virtual or in-person, can be the first building block to finding a mentor. Don’t be too forward with what you’re looking for. Be sure to collect their contact information and casually reach out after the event and form a professional relationship with them over time.