7 Reasons Why You Need a Business Mentor—And How to Land One
One way to get strategic with your business trajectory is to land a trusted adviser in the form of a mentor. Mentoring can take many forms, such as a one-on-one relationship or a mentoring circle within an organization. The best mentor-mentee relationships involve two-way learning and reciprocation.
Mentors help professionals feel more engaged, derive more meaning from their careers, and grow their businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, small business owners who receive three or more hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased growth.
Need more of a push? Here are seven reasons why you need a mentor this year:
1. A good mentor will help you identify blind spots
Blind spots are a funny thing because they exist for everyone—even the most successful leader. But when blind spots are our own, we are oblivious to them. While you yourself may not easily recognize where your weaknesses lie, a mentor can help you improve self-awareness. Think of this aspect of mentoring as a healthy reality check.
2. Give you access to a sphere of influence
A mentor can offer a large network of connections that you might not otherwise have had access to. Would your business benefit from introductions to more distributors, potential customers, or new vendors? Your sphere of influence facilitates these key interconnections.
3. Allow you to benefit from a free resource
How many small business resources can you name that cost $0? Not that many. And you can’t put a price on a mentorship, except for time spent. Both parties should agree to meeting parameters, times, dates, and agenda items so you can meet as efficiently as possible. When you enter a mentor-mentee relationship in an organized way, it will be time well spent for both parties.
4. Cheer you on through ups and downs
We could all use a cheerleader in our corner, especially when it comes to the trials and tribulations of running a successful small business. When you are paired with the right mentor, they genuinely want you to succeed. Your mentor will encourage you during your lows and be one of the first to celebrate your highs.
5. Challenge you in positive ways
Short-term and long-term goals aside, a great mentor will also challenge you to think outside the box. In an article in Inc., John Brandon explains one of his own techniques for mentoring: “One strategy I’ve used with those I’m mentoring is to assign a fairly difficult task to complete—something that will require my involvement. I don’t see mentoring as just a weekly chat. It’s an ongoing relationship and one that should always be moving toward a specific goal. It has to be intentional and specific, not vague and by the seat of your pants. Keep track of the task together and use it as a teaching aid.”
6. Share what they’ve learned from their own experience
Learning from others’ mistakes can be priceless. Who wouldn’t want to shorten the learning curve when it comes to building your small business? In most scenarios, a mentor is older, wiser, with years more business experience. With that experience comes tales of far reaching success, and also brutal failures. Honest, vulnerable conversations with your mentor will help shape your future business decisions.
7. Help you overcome your complacency
Have you ever felt stagnant in your business? A good mentor will help you establish realistic goals, hold you accountable to the tasks that help you achieve those goals, and push you when you feel like giving up.
How to find a business mentor
Once you have decided that you would like to have a mentor, how do you go about locating the right one for you?
Look at your current network. Is there another small business owner whose company’s growth is something you’d like to emulate within your own business? Take stock of your LinkedIn connections to see who is open to mentor-mentee opportunities.
Check for local SCORE opportunities. SCORE was founded in 1964 as a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SCORE network includes 10,000+ expert volunteers offering business mentoring and workshops at 300 SCORE offices across the country. Visit the SCORE website to find the closest local office; your local SCORE chapter will help pair you with a suitable mentor.
Investigate contacts within your specific industry. You might think this suggestion is counterintuitive for competitive reasons. However, seasoned professionals who are passionate about their field often offer mentorship services to other small business owners in their own industry.
See if there are private organizations in your area, such as the Pink Mentor Network
, a mentorship community for women in Charlotte, North Carolina. Also discover state-funded mentorship communities such as Business Mentor NY
Finding someone you admire should be a top priority. Make a short list of potential candidates and see where your personalities align. You can feel them out by having informal meetings where you discuss your goals and trajectory before officially asking them to be your mentor.
When asking a person to become your mentor, you want to be direct. Try something like, “I can see you’re a great team leader and I’m managing a team for the first time. Would you be able to work with me over the next year to become a great team leader?”
Once you have committed to the process, good luck. And if years from now you find yourself being asked by someone to be their mentor, draw on this experience and pay it forward!
You may think email is a no-brainer when it comes to marketing your business but it’s important to adhere to the laws regulating email communication.
You may think email is a no-brainer when it comes to marketing your business but it’s important to adhere to the laws regulating email communication.
Having owned and operated my business for over 35 years, I’ve amassed a long list of tips and marketing tricks that I enjoy sharing with other business owners. In part one of our series, I introduced a fantastic resource that Google provides FOR FREE! If you haven’t already, here is why you should claim your free Google My Business Listing. In part two we discussed how to use video for small business marketing. Video is so important and if you aren’t already implementing its use I can show you some ways to get on the bandwagon!
You may think email is a no-brainer when it comes to marketing your business. There are nearly 4 billion active email users around the world, so it makes sense! However, improper use of email when reaching out to prospects can create major problems for your business. In the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act includes a list of laws regulating commercial emails. The GDPR in the E.U. and Canada’s CASL laws may also apply to you if your business engages with international customers.
Resource # 3: Email (with consent)
The laws regulating email communication are intended to protect and violating them can result in tough penalties for your business.
Here is a summary of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information.Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines.The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad.The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located.Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly.Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipients opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that sends the message may be held legally responsible.
Permission is the act of getting consent from a subscriber to send them commercial email marketing messages. There are generally two types of permission: implied permission and express permission. You have implied permission to email someone if you have an existing business relationship with them. Think of a someone who is a current customer or an active member of a community forum that you run.
If you don’t have implied permission, then you’ll need express permission to email a person. You are granted express permission when someone enters their email in a subscribe form on your website.
Companies that build permission-based email lists usually see the fruits of their labor with high open and click through rates on their campaigns.
My advice is to collect data correctly. Covered in my book in a section titled, “Warm Calling”, be clear about why you are collecting information and how you intend to use it. Use full disclosure and ask for explicit permission to send email.
How to Grow Your Email List
Here are some creative ways to grow your email list while adhering to privacy laws:
- – Add a subscription area to your website.
- – Offer a lead magnet: Create a compelling piece of content that requires an email address before the download is available.
- – Add a “Sign Up” button to your business Facebook page.
- – Warm Calling. Covered in my book, I provide real life examples of how I collect email addresses and how you can too!
Effective email marketing converts your leads into customers, and your customers into brand advocates. When building your lists, be clear about why you are collecting information and how you intend to use it. Use full disclosure and ask for explicit permission to send email.
Why You Should Claim Your FREE Google My Business Listing
One of the aspects I love about being a small business owner is connecting and mentoring others who are building their own business. Having owned and operated my business for over 35 years, I’ve amassed a long list of tips and marketing tricks that I am more than happy to pass along. Let’s be honest, after initial startup fees, marketing usually becomes your largest monthly expense. It’s a necessary evil – if you don’t market, people don’t know you exist. If you spend too much in the wrong place you won’t reach your target audience. Marketing can be overwhelming, expensive and time-consuming. But I’m here to help!
Find the freebies
What should a small business do when they are starting out or are focused on keeping to a strict budget? My recommendation? Find the freebies first. Now when I say you should start with free; I don’t mean asking your cousin’s sister’s friend who owns a print shop hook you up with some free postcards. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with snail mail as I have found it effective in some instances of my own business.) What I mean by starting with free is that there are legitimate, zero-cost resources available to small businesses- you just have to know where to find them. No favors to repay to your cousin’s sister’s friend. No expenses that will put you into debt.
In this blog series I’d like to tell you about the marketing resources that I’ve found most effective for my own business. This first one may surprise you. (And it’s absolutely FREE!)
Resource # 1: Google
I’m not recommending you go out to Google and search for “Free resources for small businesses”. Actually, that’s always a good idea, but I digress. You’ve heard of Google AdWords and may even have considered throwing a couple hundred dollars a month at it to see if it improves your site traffic. You probably used Google Maps to navigate or like me, use it to locate a new client job site. Likely you have all of your appointments scheduled and organized in Google Calendar. But have you heard of Google My Business? In my opinion, Google My Business is one of the most under the radar tools coming from one of the biggest names in the digital space. It’s shocking to me that so many businesses have websites, but so few have claimed their free Google My Business listing.
Let me help you with these common questions:
- What is Google My Business?
- What types of businesses should use Google My Business?
- Is it beneficial to use Google My Business?
- Is it easy to claim your free listing?
- What happens if I don’t claim my listing?
What is Google My Business?
This tool was initially launched in June 2014. It was designed as a way to give business owners more control of what shows in the search results when someone searches a given business name. What we’re seeing now is that Google is really pushing for the first page of search results to be a business’s new website. Instead of clicking through to an actual website, Google is making it easier for searchers to compile all their research (location, directions, phone number, email, product and service information, reviews, etc.) about a company without ever leaving the search result page.
“Wait! Google doesn’t want to send folks to my website?”
What we’re seeing here is just a reflection of consumer online behavior. Think about how you interact with google when searching. If Google shows you all of the information you need to make a purchase decision, why click any further? Now put yourself back in your business’s shoes. If your local competitors all have a plethora of information on their Google Listing and you don’t, which business do you think they are going to be more attracted to?
What types of businesses should use Google My Business?
Are you an internet-based business? There is no reason why you shouldn’t claim your free listing. However, this tool is especially helpful for local businesses, those which rely on attracting local customer into their location. Brick and mortar stores, franchises with multiple locations (GMB allows you to add multiple locations that you serve), and service-based businesses benefit the most from this tool. Google reports that every month there are 5 billion searches for restaurants, 3 billion searches for hotels, and 600 million searches for hair and beauty salons.
Benefits of using Google My Business
I can’t downplay this first benefit. It is FREE! GMB also increases your visibility while giving you control over the content that appears when someone searches your business name. Because Google My Business listings appear both in Google Search and Google Maps, businesses can market their brands, products, or services to users on all devices that use these tools. With a complete and up-to-date Google My Business page, businesses can help potential customers find them and encourage them to buy their products or services.
I’m ready to claim my free listing! How do I do it?
Your free Google My Business listing can be set up in minutes. Visit this link and follow the online instructions. If you prefer a more personal interaction, you can even call Google and they will help you set it up for free over the phone: (1-844-491-9665).
It can be alarming to find out that someone else has already claimed your business listing. Before you panic, reach out to anyone who’s had a hand in helping you market your business because it could be that they’ve already taken this step on your behalf. If this isn’t the case, Google provides instructions on how to submit a transfer of ownership request.
I hope I’ve made a compelling case for claiming your free Google My Business listing and that you’ll take advantage of this resource – today! After you’ve claimed your own listing, search for some of your friends’, colleagues or vendors’ businesses. If they haven’t yet claimed their listing I hope you will call them to let them in on this quick, easy, and free tool that will optimize your marketing efforts.
Teaser Alert! In the next part of our series, we are going to talk about video, the how and why a small business can utilize it to help market your business and (gasp!) link to it in your Google My Business listing!
Reinventing Entrepreneurship: Focus on Making a Difference and You’ll Make Plenty of Money
We entrepreneurs want to make plenty of money – but not at all costs. Entrepreneurship is about pushing ourselves to be better than we were yesterday, for the most of us. The definition of entrepreneurship focuses primarily on risk and initiative rather than the accumulation of wealth. Most of us won’t become billionaires, but we can still all make a positive difference in the world and make plenty of money at the same time.
Are you giving back? You can do so in a number of ways. It could be financial, such as donating to a favourite cause or charity. Or you could give the gift of your time.
Has someone provided some assistance to you that resulted in the growth of your business? Belonging to communities related to your business interest on social media is a great way to give back and build your business at the same time. People will often seek help for a business problem in the form of a question. You can provide an answer to their question to help them out and be seen by others as an expert in your field. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to work together on a project where the both of you can make plenty of money. Try to post something positive on your social networks every day.
You could offer your expertise to a charity or cause. Perhaps you could volunteer to be manager, treasurer or coach of your child’s sports team. Help raise funds for a special project. Or help with a community clean up. I’ve found all to be a rewarding experience both on a personal level and with the contacts that I developed.
Phil La Duke writes in his post that maybe it’s time to adopt 6 simple behaviors to rebrand entrepreneurship. Check out, Reinventing Entrepreneurship: Focus on Making a Difference and You’ll Make Plenty of Money.
Entrepreneurs don’t need to pursue the accumulation of wealth at all costs. We can do, we can be, better than that. I had to look up the definition to be sure, but an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” I found it odd that while we think of entrepreneurs as primarily driven to make enough money to buy the world a Coke (even if I DID have the money I just don’t have the time or logistics support to do that) the actual definition doesn’t even mention money, but instead focuses on risk and initiative. So with that in mind maybe it’s time to rebrand entrepreneurship by adopting six simple behaviors: Reinventing Entrepreneurship: Focus on Making a Difference and You’ll Make Plenty of Money