3 Things You Can Learn From A Mentor

For many small business owners, a successful mentor can provide much-needed guidance to navigate through new territory or skills – whether it’s advice on marketing or startup hurdles. 

Or it might be less specific than that. Some entrepreneurs just benefit from the support of an experienced leader who can not only dispense knowledge but understands what it takes to start and run a successful business, someone who’s been where they are and gets it.

“Mentors aren’t necessarily who you expect them to be,” says entrepreneur Melinda Emerson, author of Fix Your Business & Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

“It could be someone who has succeeded despite serious obstacles or someone who opens your mind up to new ideas and philosophies,” she wrote in a blog for Small Business Trends.

On the fence about whether you could benefit from a mentor? Consider these three things you could gain from having one.

Develop Confidence

Having a mentor in your journey as an entrepreneur is a gift beyond measure, whether they’re in your life for a short time or for years, says Emerson in the SBT blog.

“You will learn, grow, and develop the confidence you need with a mentor constantly giving you honest feedback,” Emerson says.  “A mentor is a leader who makes you want to succeed and demonstrates how to do that."

“They will generally be among your biggest supporters, but they also know how and when to constructively explain where there’s room for improvement.”

External Perspective

Solopreneurs and small business owners don’t have easy access to a pool of possible mentors inside a company like those working in corporate settings do but an “external mentor” can give you guidance with an outside view.

Michael Barlow, co-founder and CEO of Fernish, says external mentors take an active role in shaping you and your business from the outside in by providing perspectives across a vast array of experiences.

In a blog for Entrepreneur, Barlow writes how his external mentors were invaluable to his path to his success. He found two of his closest external mentors (a former CFO at NBCUniversal and the former president at MTV) early on in his career. 

“They provided excellent initial advice around managing my transition out of a career in finance into an early stage startup, and have both continued to provide valuable perspective as I’ve gone on to found and build my own company,” he writes in the blog.

Insight From A Different Generation

Depending on their background and needs, some entrepreneurs – particularly those who start companies as a second or third career – could benefit from the guidance and knowledge of a mentor who’s from a different generation.

Even if their experience isn’t as wide as yours, a younger entrepreneur-mentor has insight to share. They’ve grown up with the technology that literally changed the marketing landscape for businesses, says Robert Glazer, founder of marketing agency Acceleration Partners. 

“A Gen Z mentor can teach an older entrepreneur how to do things like create a viral social media strategy, market their products to younger demographics, or refresh any branding materials that have grown stale,” writes Glazer in a blog for Inc. magazine.

In what he calls a “reverse mentorship,” a business owner working with a younger mentor can also learn more about workplace innovations and trends, such as the remote work. A study he cites indicates an estimated 70 percent of employees are working remotely at least one day of the week. 

“Gen Z entrepreneurs know the draw of flexible, remote work environments, and they are always on the lookout for top talent, regardless of where they work, their hours, or even what they wear to work,” Glazer says.

“By building a reverse mentorship, experienced leaders can learn these types of strategies to keep their companies ahead of the curve.”