Did you know that about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year?
That’s a daunting statistic for anyone starting a new Washington, DC Metro Area business.
And, even scarier, is the reality that companies with owners younger than 30 are even more likely to tank. The especially high failures of young owners indicate that inexperience coupled with the various functions required to OPERATE a business play a big part in a business closing its doors.
There really is no substitute for experience.
But here’s the thing – the right mentor lets you tap into their experience … an older business vet to tell you the mistakes to avoid and ways to streamline a process that might have taken you years to figure out.
Mentoring is a time-tested method of business development that’s been used by superstars like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. And you can make the same resource work for you, too.
Before I get into all of this though, a word.
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Now … back to the small business mentoring thing.
Small Business Mentoring For Your Washington, DC Metro Area Business
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
What can you learn from a mentor?
Well, that really depends on the questions you ask.
How have they kept on going in their industry? What do they think is a good risk to take? What do they know now that they wish they’d known then?
You can also ask how to improve your networking and professional communication skills, be a better manager, find your professional strengths and play to them, and even how to educate yourself more about your profession.
So, what questions should you be prepared to answer? A good mentor will want to know what you’d like to achieve with your business in the near future and how you plan to hit your goals.
You can also learn how to charge more for your services. Business people have claimed that just three hours of mentoring has helped to boost their company’s profits.
That alone is worth the price of small business mentoring – a price that, aside from the work and will it’ll take you to learn, is usually free.
Where to look
Finding a mentor for your Washington, DC Metro Area small business isn’t as hard as you might think. Put together a list of business people you know and fill it out with those you’re just acquainted with. Social media can be useful for this – and don’t forget to ask coworkers and colleagues if the fit seems right.
You can also find a mentor using online services – in these days of Zoom conferences there’s no reason your mentor even has to be in the same city as you.
Have you considered returning to school to improve yourself professionally? That environment’s great for networking with potential mentors.
Also check SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. They specialize in hooking volunteer mentors up with companies like yours and have 10,000 volunteers providing free mentoring nationwide. They’ve also got a page where you can search for a mentor.
Before you ask just somebody to be your mentor, ask yourself what you look to get out of the connection. What are the top business goals that you want help with? More customers? Better networking?
Once you’ve found someone, set up a few preliminary conversations to get to know each other, to see if your careers and outlooks align. If you seem to click and would like to speak more regularly, ask if they’d consider mentoring you. Suggest a frequency to meet, that you’ll bring an agenda and that the meeting can be however and wherever is convenient for them.
That “consider” gives them time to think about it. You want serious thought to be behind their answer.
What to watch out for with small business mentoring
This all sounds terrific – what could go wrong? Well, a couple of things.
First, of course, is having the meetings: Everybody’s got jam-packed schedules which can make scheduling difficult. And this is a voluntary arrangement for both of you. Slot meetings at least a few weeks out and commit to that schedule.
If over time you find too many meetings are getting pushed, you may have to re-think this person as your mentor. You also don’t want to over-schedule in the beginning – this just burns both of you out.
You also don’t want to come to depend too heavily on your mentor – and the mentor is never to take advantage of the arrangement. If for instance, they start asking you to do their work for them, run for the nearest exit.
Don’t be afraid to go through a couple of people before you find the mentor who’s right for you. They could soon become one of the best resources for your small business.
In the area of all things tax and financial … well, we’d love to play this role for you. If we haven’t (yet) discussed exactly what that could and should look like, get on our calendar. We have options.
But a good Washington, DC Metro Area business owner has more than one advisor and mentor. I’m happy to make other recommendations if you want them and be a guide where I can be.
Always in your corner,
Keith Cole, CPA, EA