How mentorship can help your business

As Australia becomes increasingly competitive on the world stage, and both entrepreneurial paths and start-ups are increasingly supported and promoted within the business community, mentorship is playing a stronger role in maintaining the success and growth of new businesses as well as creating opportunities for those well-established in the community to diversify their businesses.

What is mentorship in business?

There is still a place for the traditional role of a mentor to be a longterm source of support and experience to typically younger people. But mentorship is expanding now to include short-term relationships with smaller or more modular goals, as well as less emphasis on the ‘aged’ teaching the ‘young’ but more on an exchange of ideas and experience between peers, regardless of their age or journey within business.

Finding mentors when starting a business

The best way to develop relationships with potential mentors is through attending not just relevant industry events but those that you wouldn’t think would be helpful to you. If you are starting a fintech business, don’t limit yourself to fintech conferences and meetups to meet people who can influence your success. Look towards conferences, talks and meetups that engage with all sorts of topics, such as diversity and pathways into tech, startup meetups and specific events within different industries. You never know what conversations and connections you are going to spark up, and where these can take you.

There are dedicated mentor programs for those in business, which can pair you with those who have experience that is most relevant to your needs and goals. This may be the ideal path for you, but don’t discount those outside of your specific industry as sources for sage advice.

How can mentorship help your business?

Regardless of whether it is a new business or you have been running it for a number of years, a mentor can help you address the issues relevant to what stage of life your business is in. They may be aware of the pitfalls that new entrepreneurs can fall into when trying to establish a business, such as time management, prioritising, networking, branding, overheads, budgeting. They have usually already made the mistakes, and while you are going to definitely make mistakes, a mentor can often push you in a direction away from those that could break the business.

A long term mentor may give less specific advice when it comes to how to balance the books or develop particular aspects of your business, but they will be a great source of advice for the larger questions you have, such as where you want to see your business in 5, 10, and 15 years. If you know that you are fully capable in the short term aspects of your business, consider seeking out those who can help you in areas you hadn’t even considered. 

A short term mentor may be one with more experience in your relevant field. For example, if your business relies heavily on tech to produce effective digital products, a mentor with strong experience in using particular programming languages for the benefit of their own business may be able to give you advice on how best to build your digital product. A mentor could be a User Interface professional who is even younger than you and with less experience in business management, but they will have the short term value of guiding the development of your product and how users interact with it. They may not be full time staff but their advice can help guide the work of your developers. Someone who adds this sort of value usually requires a fee, as a mentor is usually someone who gives advice for the benefits that come their way as well. If you are paying for that advice, it’s not a mentor that you have on your hands, but a consultant.

Being a mentor when running a business

What’s in it for you? Traditionally, mentors were older because they had the wisdom to see how their role as a mentor provided them with benefits that were less measurable but equally as important. Today, where a mentor/mentee relationship may be short term and more specific, a mentor can still benefit from the leadership skills their role develops within them, as well as other opportunities for growth within their own businesses. A mentor/mentee relationship may start out as such, but can just as easily turn into a collaborative arrangement or even a business partnership.

 

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