So you have a Business Mentor…Now What?

one-on-oneAfter careful consideration and research, you have decided to enlist the support of a business mentor to help you and your business. You have found a coach with plenty of experience, who is easy to talk to and interested in embarking on this journey with you.

So what now?

How do you ensure that you reap the value of your business mentor, and see improvements and growth in your business? Unsurprisingly, this is where the work begins. Before you meet with your mentor, you must be prepared to take a good, hard look at your business and be ready to make objective observations about how it is performing. Take some time to decide where you want your business to be in a year, five years or ten years, because thorough reflection will ensure that your business mentor knows how to challenge and push you to reach your goals. Take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your business so that you are prepared to discuss and tackle issues that need improvement as well as ways to further strengthen your attributes.

In short, you must do your homework before every meeting with your mentor in order to make the most of the time you spend with him or her. This ensures that this time is spent instead on learning from their experience, asking thoughtful questions and developing tactical steps to reach your goals. I’ve compiled some questions that could be helpful for provoking conversation with your mentor:

1. What advice can you give me in developing or improving my business plan?

2. From your experience, what lesson did you learn that would be most valuable to me?

3. What are the ways that will help me determine the risks and benefits of an important business decision?

4. From your observations thus far, what do you identify as my areas of weakness?

5. What does my business do well?

6. This is where I am, and this is where I want to be. What needs to change for me to get there?

7. With my goals in mind, how should I be spending my time?

8. How can I help you?

The last question, while different from the rest, becomes just as important because it signals the strength of the relationship between mentor and mentee. Mentorship is never a one-way street and by investing in this relationship and looking to contribute to it, you are communicating your commitment to the mentorship process and ensuring your mentor sees value in playing the role of your mentor.

What other questions would add value to a meeting with your mentor? Do you think that taking time to reflect on your business beforehand enriches the mentorship process? I look forward to your comments below!


“Mentorship is not for me” and other mentorship myths

mentorshipBusiness mentorship can be a source of support, enlightenment and perspective for all parties associated in the relationship. Mentees will often commend their mentor for helping to both ground them and challenge them to take the calculated risks that will push their business to the next level. As a TAB Facilitator, I meet business-owners who have not yet incorporated mentorship into their business strategy and who hesitate to enlist the support of a business coach, which has led me to explore some misconceptions about business mentorship to share with you.

Mentorship is for junior people: Many people assume that mentorship is solely reserved for those just beginning their careers, where a seasoned person mentors a young, fresh individual. These days, people can change jobs and even career paths multiple times, meaning that mentorship can occur in every phase of your career or business ownership.

Your mentor needs to be within your industry: While it can be helpful to receive advice from someone who understands the intricacies of your industry, the benefits of a completely different perspective cannot be overstated. With a set of fresh eyes on your business, you can stand to gain insight into strategies you would have never considered for yourself.

As an expert in your field, you don’t require a mentor: Business owners undoubtedly have long and successful careers behind them, but as the business world changes and evolves, you may find you need to keep educating yourself on trends and best practices to keep your business on the cutting edge.

Mentorship is a formal, long-term relationship: Mentorship need not be a rigid, inflexible process! You can have many mentors, drawing on strengths you admire in each of them and learning from their diverse backgrounds. As well, you may decide to have an ongoing mentorship relationship or choose to have a short session over coffee. Mentorship can come in whatever format works well for you as long as you understand what you are looking to gain from the experience.

Mentorship is a one-way transaction: As a mentee, don’t discredit what you can offer your mentor. Mentors may be at another point in their career, but you can offer perspective, feedback and support to your mentor based on your skill set and experience. This can keep a mentorship relationship fresh and evolving so that both parties gain something valuable.

Are there any other reasons for being hesitant to engage with a mentor? If you have a mentor, what have you gained from the experience? I look forward to your comments below.


Obstacles Facing Women Business-Owners

9-successful-women-entrepreneurs-in-indiaOverall, there are fewer Canadian female business-owners than their male counterparts. Why does this disparity exist? I want to focus on female business-ownership and how women can begin overcoming obstacles to success, either societal or otherwise.

Of all the business-owners I have worked with over the years, only a small percentage of my mentees are female, and I believe with more female presence in the entrepreneurial community, more women would feel inspired and compelled to see themselves undertaking that challenge.

Based on some very preliminary research, there could be several reasons why there are simply less female Canadian business-owners:

  • Fewer females in positions of power in business: Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women hold only 14% of executive officer positions*. With statistics like these, perhaps young women do not identify or aspire to become business owners when they do not see female role models.
  • Work-Life Balance: Although we now see much more equality between women and men in the domestic setting, women traditionally still take on a large portion of the household responsibilities, which results in less available time to spend putting in the hard hours of work required to get a new business up and running.
  •  Societal gender expectations: Traits that are often valued in male business-owners, such as assertiveness and drive, are sometimes incorrectly perceived as aggressive and selfish in female business-owners. This can affect a female business-owner’s confidence in reaching her next level of professional success.
  • Lack of mentorship: Starting a business can be a very personal undertaking, and it may be difficult to ask for help. Business-owners, both male and female, would benefit from seeking mentorship and business coaching to gain perspective, learn from others’ experience and get support.

Do you agree with some of the reasons why there may be fewer female Canadian business-owners? Would you have added more to the list? Let me know what you think in your comments below.

* Information referenced from Business Insider Magazine.