People

Where can I find a mentor?

Aunty B /

Hi Aunty B,

I read your answer to: “I want to grow, who can help?” 

I have been very keen to identify a business mentor for a while now – but, for the life of me, I seem to get nowhere.

How would you go about finding one?

Regards,
Rui,

Surry Hills, NSW

 

Dear Rui,

Mentoring should be part of a strategic strategy. You need different types of help at different times of the business growth cycle.

So your first step is to understand why you want a mentor. Are you growing fast and want to identify further opportunities? Are you in trouble and need to change the business? Or do you just need support and reassurance that you are travelling well? Do you need specific assistance in a key area like sales, or franchising?

Once you are clear about the reason, identify who might help. For example if you want advice on how to get to the next stage and access new networks and channels, join an industry association and network.

Or read the press. Identify an entrepreneur or senior business person and call them up. Is it possible to pick their brains for half an hour on a specific topic? Ask them how they did it and for other examples. Then ask them could you call now and again for advice? Maybe when they are commuting home from work they could talk to you for half an hour.

If you are just starting, wanting to do a business plan or marketing plan, you could start by using the mentoring services available through the state governments. For example in Victoria, you can use the Business Mentoring Service, or contact the Victorian Business Line on 13 22 15.

 They will match you to experienced business mentors with experience in:

  • Marketing.
  • Sales.
  • Banking.
  • Accountancy.
  • Franchising.
  • Industries such as manufacturing, retail and tourism.

They could also assist you in targeting another mentor who may be able to take a longer term interest in your business.

In NSW try the Young Entrepreneur Stepping Up Program. Queensland’s Small Business Solutions offers a Business Skills Mentors service. Business SA offers mentors through its SA Young Entrepreneur Scheme. Tasmania’s Business Point may help, and in WA try the Small Business Development Corporation.

Mentoring is also good if you are facing difficult times. But maybe in this situation you could look at employing a business coach, management consultant to reengineer processes, an innovation coach to help with opportunity identification or an accountant.

In my experience Rui, entrepreneurs tell me they found their mentors by literally picking them up at functions. Take Kristina Karlsson, the founder of kikki.K. She found her mentor Gillian Franklin by approaching her after Gillian had given a talk.

Entrepreneurs also pick up the phone and cold call or seek an introduction through their networks.

But just a little tip Rui. Research shows that women tend to look for mentors within their family and friends network. Men tend to find mentors from further afield. So don’t be shy and don’t limit yourself.

Oh and one more tip. Make sure you marry the aim and values of your business to that of the mentor. Gillian Franklin for example is passionate about helping women in business, so she likes to mentor young women and asks them to mentor in return. Others have a passion to help young people, or create jobs or help the disadvantaged. Or to help incumbants take on sleepy old giants.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B.

Aunty B is kicking back on holiday, but her advice is timeless, as evidenced by this Aunty B classic from February 2008. To read more Aunty B advice, click here.

Email your questions, problems and issues to [email protected].

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Aunty B

I’m SmartCompany’s resident Agony Aunt. Have a problem to solve? Just ask. @IamAuntyB #AuntyB