For many women, having a source of inspiration and advice is key to overcoming the challenges of running a small business.
According to a 2014 study, small business owners with a mentor are 70% more likely to succeed beyond five years than those who don’t have one. Finding the right mentor will help you remain goal focused, maintain a work / life balance and make important business decisions.
Even better, mentors help instill the confidence needed to seek out new business opportunities and achieve greater growth.
Here a few ways to find a mentor who will help you grow your business.
Know what to look for
You friends or family can provide emotional support, but it pays to look for a strategic, business focused mentor to provide sound skills-based business advice and strategic thinking. What you really want is subject matter expertise or industry specific experience. For example, if you are running a franchise, look for someone with prior successful franchise experience. And if you think marketing is your weak point, find a mentor for whom that is a strength.
Two heads are better than one, and getting another perspective is always useful – even if it’s simply to confirm your gut instincts were right. Women in business tend to be a little cautious – sometimes missing opportunities – so getting confirmation from a mentor you are on the right track can give you the confidence to make big decisions.
There are plenty of subscription businesses developed specifically for providing mentoring services, such as Her Business. Her Business offers a free webinar on how mentoring can help your business, as well a regularly updated blog that contains tips and advice from Australia’s top women in small business.
Some mentoring services are subsidised by your local and state governments, making them even more cost efficient and a wise investment. For example, the Queensland government’s Small Business Solutions program gives small business owners access to government-subsidised business skilled mentors, perfect for those facing challenges or needing help to move their business forward.
Networking events & conferences
There has been an almost 50% increase in female business owners in the last twenty years, so there are plenty of successful women out there who may be able to guide you. To find them, join networks like Women’s Network Australia and BPW Australia. Networking events are great opportunities to meet people in a similar field to yours, and, in particular, start talking to those who have more experience than you do. Don’t try to force the relationship, though – if a connection has been made, you’ll know. And when you do, be sure to exchange details, whether that’s a phone number or e-mail.
Sites like Eventbrite are a great resource for discovering local networking events, so there’s always an opportunity just around the corner. Look for state based events like Queensland Small Business Week and Spark Festival in New South Wales. Typically, these events include of a range of workshops, seminars and talks. Keep an eye out for relevant events in your state.
And remember, even the most unlikely connection could be helpful.
Social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, are a great space to build relationships with other businesswomen and to continue developing connections made at events. Facebook sometimes works better for small business owners and you can use Messenger to communicate directly. With LinkedIn make sure you keep your personal profile up to date and ensure you join a few business groups to access some great content and ideas. You don’t have to start discussions or even contribute to them, often just reading conversation threads provides a huge amount of insght.
You may find you’re naturally drawn to certain people you e-meet in these groups and could pursue a mentoring relationship with them beyond the online space. It’s wiser to invest time in a few meaningful relationships than many shallow conversations.
Your personal network
Lastly, don’t forget your own friends, co-workers and family. Each one of them will have a set of skills and experience you can tap into. Some people find they need to talk to think, so discussing ideas with your friends and family might help you work out a plan.
Your friends and family are the people most likely to know you best and can provide the emotional and moral support many small business owners need, especially in times of crisis! Your loved ones will help you maintain a healthy work / life balance and are often your most loyal customers.
Once you have decided on a plan to grow your business, call one of the friendly team at Prospa for help with access to a small business loan.