Small business owners can benefit from relationships they build with peers in the business community. Discussing business struggles with others who may be experiencing similar hardships can be constructive in resolving issues. Mentors offer wisdom and knowledge acquired from their experience with growing their business.
Mentoring can be used in a variety of situations and different mentors may be used.
There is no need to rely on a single mentor. It is rare that one mentor will have expertise on all operational issues so it is useful to search out several sources. Find a group of people you can work with that you would trust to have the best interest of your business in mind.
The relationship with a mentor does not have to be a formal or long term contractual relationship. It can be a few hours of mentoring sessions, or periodic reviews over time depending on the current needs.
If you can find someone who knows your business and industry well the mentoring is likely to be more relevant and satisfying.
Mentoring can be used across the organization ranging from coaching younger executives to time spent with the most senior group. If the business environment is changing rapidly a mentor may be valuable guiding the organization through the process of managing change.
Remember, mentoring is not likely free advice; the relationship with a mentor should satisfy the needs of both the organization and the person providing the service. There may be fees involved but a business may also provide the mentor with a unique opportunity to see a new perspective on an issue and fees may be waved in lieu of the experience gained by the mentor.
You can determine when a mentor will be of benefit through self-assessment and determining the challenges the business faces. If you can resolve the issues with resources internally you do not need a mentor but if the answer to the question is you lack the talent in house it may be time to seek the support of one or more persons with the right kind of advice.