Just as most top athletes have a coach to help improve their performance; most businesses with the drive to succeed engage some form of mentoring assistance to fine-tune their business performance.
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A mentor is someone with experience who you trust and can consult for business advice and guidance to assist your business or professional development. Mentoring usually involves the informal transmission of knowledge and social capital over a sustained period, with some face-to-face meetings supported by email and telephone communication.
Finding the right mentor for your business is likely to be the hardest part. The first step would be to assess your own strengths and weaknesses to identify where you or your business could benefit from input or new ideas. Ideally you will need to find a mentor with the right experience and know-how to help where you need it most.
Your mentor will also need to be someone you both respect and trust, because you will be divulging a lot about yourself and your business to enable your mentor to assist you to grow both personally and professionally.
When you discover someone with whom you’d like to develop a mentoring relationship, take things slowly. Unless you know a lot about your potential mentor or have had business or social dealings with them, it is wise to build up a relationship before you pop the “will you be my mentor” question – in much the same way as you would not propose marriage on a first date.
The investment in finding the right mentor is worth it. Mentoring can provide peace of mind, inspiration or simply a sounding board to sound out ideas for growing your business.
There are a number of places where New Zealand businesses can find mentors and a choice whether to find your own mentor, make use of free mentor services or to hire your own mentor or business coach.
Business Mentors New Zealand provides a volunteer mentoring service to New Zealand SME businesses. They have more than 1,600 independent volunteer mentors who are committed to sharing their skills, knowledge and experience to make a difference to small business.
Funding to support delivery of the service comes primarily from private sector businesses with additional assistance from government via New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. The mentoring service is available to any New Zealand SME business that is currently trading and can provide evidence of accounts. A registration fee of $150 plus GST entitles small businesses to use the mentoring service for two years.
The Maori Business Facilitation Service at Te Puni Kokiri provides advice and guidance to new and existing Māori businesses.
The Institute of Accredited Business Consultants (NZ) keeps a register of accredited business consultants. They have an online query form and try to match your business needs with the experience of the various consultants they have registered. Using a consultant or mentor who is registered with this professional body gives you a level of assurance about the quality of service and advice you will receive.
An Internet search for mentors will give you a large selection to choose from.
You might be able to find a suitable mentor by joining you industry association or local chamber of commerce and making contact. You could also identify a business you admire and contact them.
There might also be someone in your family or circle of friends or acquaintances who would be the perfect mentor for your business. Other alternatives include getting mentoring advice from professionals like you accountant, lawyer of bank manager.
You could also consider other small business owners, or form your own mentoring group of business peers.