(Family Features) You have a compelling business model ... ambition ... entrepreneurial spirit. Add in a solid business plan and the necessary capital, and you may be well on your way toward launching a business. But before you take the leap into owning your own business, it's worthwhile to consider adding in another important element - the guidance of a mentor.
According to a recent survey conducted by The UPS Store, 88 percent of small business owners believe having a mentor has been invaluable. As evidence of the value this unique relationship brings, more than two-thirds of business owners who had a mentor prior to starting the business are still in contact with their mentor.
"For many, starting a business can be overwhelming - it's not just about exploring a passion or following a dream," said W. Kenneth Yancy, chief executive officer of SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground. "A mentor can help navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner, and the guidance from someone who has been there themselves can be a real asset."
Beyond the intangibles - access to knowledge and the confidence that comes from having a respected colleague rooting for your success, for example - a mentor relationship can have a very real impact on your bottom line. In fact, 70 percent of small business owners who receive mentoring survive for five years or more, double the rate of those who do not.
"Many small business owners feel like they're all alone when it comes to facing challenges," said Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store. "Getting help from an expert, or advice from another business owner who's already experienced something similar, can be invaluable."
A mentor's contributions can take many different forms, so it's important to find a partner whose expertise and approach to business is similar to yours. Through organizations such as SCORE, small business owners can - at no cost - pull from a pool of more than 11,000 certified experts from every industry to find a mentor that fits their personal work style and needs.
Before choosing a mentor, consider the following questions to help you find a match who can maximize your business potential:
- How strong a role would you like your mentor to have? Are you looking for someone to bounce ideas off of, or someone who will guide you?
- What timeframe does your schedule allow? Are you looking for a mentor to connect with weekly? Bi-weekly? As needed?
- Where are you most comfortable meeting with your mentor? Is an electronic or phone-based relationship acceptable, or do you prefer chats over coffee?
- Are there specific skills you lack that a mentor could help develop?
- What credentials does your mentor need in order to provide you the greatest benefit?
To access tools, templates and other resources to help you find a mentor, and to search for a mentor with expertise in your field, visit www.theupsstore.com/score.
The Bottom Line
- Small businesses that receive mentoring are 20 percent more likely to experience growth than those that don't.
- Small businesses that receive 3-plus hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased business growth.
- 70 percent of small business owners that receive mentoring survive for five years or more.
Marketing Your Business
A smart business plan includes a marketing strategy to help guide the communication and growth of your company. As you consider how you'll approach marketing for your new business, you'll need to consider things like your marketing goals, your target market and what the competitive landscape looks like.
For help creating your marketing plan, visit the SCORE Marketing Assessment Tool at www.theupsstore.com/score. The free tool offers a survey to help small business owners plan and execute an effective marketing strategy.
John Davila, third generation architect and founder and CEO of LBCT Architectural Engineering and Design, learned everything he knows about architecture from his mentor.
In 1919, John's grandfather started an architecture business in Scotland. He mentored John's father for many years, who eventually took over the business and finally, when the time came, his knowledge and expertise were shared with John.
"My father is my mentor, I took the knowledge from him to create my own business that incorporated some of his principles with my business goals," said Davila. "Having a mentor helped prepare me for obstacles I faced as a small business owner."
Just like his father, John has found great joy in mentoring. John is currently mentoring a past client's daughter who has interest in entering the architecture and design industry. John knows the importance of being educated in the field you are hoping to turn into a career and feels that a mentor's experience is extremely helpful when making the transition of opening a business.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The UPS Store