When Odysseus left for the war, he placed his friend Mentor in charge of his son. In order to advise the boy, the goddess Athena would appear as Mentor to guide and share her wisdom with him.
Since we solo operators could do with a bit of heavenly advice and assistance from time to time, it makes sense to work with a mentor.
I am a strong proponent of the kind of supportive nurturing it offers, but am still often surprised at how powerful having an experienced mentor on my side can be.
But how to find the right mentor for you? Here are a few things to consider – where, who and what.
Where do you find a mentor? This can be through a professional association or network within your industry.
Alternatively there are networks set up for special interest groups, such as the Australian Women’s Mentoring Network.
The Small Business Mentoring Service is an example of an excellent government-run service for a minimum cost; most states offer one of these.
There are websites that match you with people offering to share their experience and these can be a good place to start looking.
Who is the best mentor for you? If you are just starting out you can probably learn from anyone who has more experience, but experience alone may not cut it for you.
This is a working relationship, not a lifelong one, but the key is still finding someone you can trust.
Apart from checking their background and getting referrals, you will need to meet and give it a try.
There has to be room for either party to say yay or nay. Look for someone who shares your values and can appreciate the goals you are striving to achieve.
Being from the same industry may help, but a similar view of meaningful success will be a more solid foundation for your conversations.
What can you ask your mentor? You should be able to ask them anything. Having a set time for a chat focuses the mind wonderfully on ideas, tasks and plans that as a solo you don’t get to discuss with anyone else.
Working with a mentor also means being accountable to someone else and this helps in meeting those self-imposed deadlines for development that often get pushed to the bottom of the priority list when you get busy.
Whether it is finance, strategy, long or short-term planning or even a quick fix of an immediate problem, your mentor will have solutions and new questions that come from long experience and time spent going through similar stuff.
So, don’t re-invent the wheel. Make time to meet with a mentor. You will be repaid a thousand times over for this small investment.
If you need more information on mentoring, I recommend Ann Rolfe’s Mentoring Works. Her site is a goldmine.