Why every small business owner should spare time for a mentor

By: John Davis

Date: 12 July 2012

Why every small business owner should spare time for a mentor/tutoring{{}}In a business mentoring relationship, a seasoned business owner meets with a new or potential business owner one-on-one to give advice, focus objectives or simply boost morale.

The relationship can be a paid arrangement organised through a business support group or free advice from a local business expert. Either way, there is strong evidence that mentoring hugely benefits small businesses:

  • 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs
  • small businesses that receive mentoring are 20% more likely to experience growth than those that don’t (source: the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative).

However, despite these encouraging statistics, surprising evidence has emerged recently that suggests 42% of small-businesses owners have never consulted a mentor (source: Moore & Smalley accountancy survey). Furthermore, according to a recent poll we conducted at BCSG, 55% of start-ups do not plan to use a mentor once their business is up and running.

It can be easy for small-business owners to get caught up in the whirlwind of day-to-day tasks involved in running their business, but putting aside time for regular mentoring sessions can prove invaluable, for personal development and business growth. Specific ways in which mentors can positively impact success include:

  • giving advice based on first-hand experience, helping to point new business owners in the right direction and navigate successfully through complicated business matters
  • providing support and motivation during stressful and challenging times, helping small-business owners to approach obstacles with perspective and confidence
  • acting as a sounding board for new ideas, enabling the mentee to test out strategies with a trusted party outside of the business
  • developing business skills by sharing expertise in fields such as managing staff, project management and marketing
  • introducing mentees to useful contacts, helping them to build a wide network of support for their business.

Above all, effective mentoring can foster a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between mentor and mentee that can span the length of a career.    

The Government is encouraging small business growth through mentoring by promoting initiatives such as MentorsMe, a national portal that gives businesses a single, easy-to-use search engine to locate organisations that provide mentor services. So far, 100 mentoring organisations are accessible through the portal, providing details for more than 16,000 trained mentors, and organisers are aiming for a network of 26,000 mentors by the end of September 2012.