To establish and grow a successful business today, you need to grab every opportunity you see – and a mentor could help you spot them. Here’s why mentors can be invaluable and how to find the right one for you.

What makes a successful entrepreneur

Scratch the surface of some of the most successful businesses and you'll discover one of the secrets to their growth: an enthusiasm for mentors.

A good mentor can help a start-up founder deal more confidently with the challenges confronting them – to forge ahead and thrive.

Those who serve as mentors have been there and done that. They can be a sounding board and a wise ear on business growth strategies. The journey of launching a business can be a lonely and confronting one, so having a mentor nearby means having someone to help steer you away from potential potholes.

Plus, global research has found there’s clear business value in mentorship.

1. You're more likely to increase your profits

Having a good mentor can have a direct impact on your bottom line. According to research from the US consultancy MicroMentor, those small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who were mentored over a period of 12 months increased their revenue by 83 per cent while non-mentored businesses only increased their revenue by 16 per cent. In other studies, 67 per cent of businesses have reported an increase in productivity thanks to mentoring and 55 per cent have felt mentoring had a positive impact on their profits.

2. You're more likely to survive

Life can be precarious for a new business, but recruiting great mentors is one of the simplest strategies start-ups can use to ensure they’re not just another statistic.

Having mentors has been shown to increase a company’s chances of survival, success and business expansion.

A recent survey from US group MicroMentor, shows 83 per cent of mentored businesses survived past the average survival period for a new business compared to 74 per cent of non-mentored. And, according to a survey by US organisation the UPS Score, 70 per cent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years - double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. SMEs acknowledge the benefits of mentoring too, with 93 per cent saying mentoring can help them to succeed according to research from the Sage Group.

3. It opens you up to new ways of thinking

When you’re immersed in the many pressures of starting and building a business, it’s a challenge to find time to step outside the daily to-do list and barrage of details and focus on thinking. A mentor can be a vital asset for bouncing ideas off and opening your mind to new ways of looking at things. Whether it's business advice or business plans, a good mentor will help bring clarity to your thinking by asking questions, giving feedback and suggesting pathways of opportunity you may not have considered.

4. You'll stress less

Deciding to back yourself and launch your own business can spark some stressful times, and doubts may creep in. How to start a successful business? What are good entrepreneur ideas? Will my strategy work? A trusted mentor who has already experienced what you’re going through, fallen in a few holes themselves and pulled themselves out, can provide assurance you’re on the right track or, if you’re losing your way, help you avoid mistakes. Having that guidance can reduce stress and restore vital self-confidence when it begins to falter.

How to find the right mentor for you

The good news is that finding mentors is easier than ever before. In the digital age, people can communicate easily even when they’re in a different city or country.

The Australian Government offers advice and also provides links to several mentoring services for businesses and programs around Australia that can help you find the right mentor.

Being part of an industry association can be invaluable in building new networks and finding mentoring opportunities. Ask entrepreneurs or business leaders if they’d be prepared to mentor you. You’ll be heartened by how open the business community is to supporting other business operators, using their experience to encourage success.

And why stop at one? There’s no reason you can’t gather several mentors – sometimes referred to as your own 'personal board of directors' - and learn from a variety of people. you can look beyond the traditional idea of a mentor as only someone who's older and wiser.

While some mentor relationships may be for life, others can provide help at a particular stage in your business’s growth. The kind of mentors you seek out are likely to change as your business develops, too. Building a strategy for mentorship into your business plan could be, as others have found, one of the biggest factors in your success.

Important information

The information provided in this article is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information in this article, National Australia Bank Limited (ABN 12 004 044 937, AFSL and Australian Credit License 230686) (NAB) recommends you consider whether it is appropriate for your objectives, financial situation and needs. NAB recommends that you seek independent advice before acting on any information in this article.

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