Mark Lyttleton is an angel investor and business mentor. He works on both a paid and pro bono basis, providing business owners with financial and strategic support, as well as offering personal advice to help them handle the many challenges involved in establishing and growing a thriving business. This article will look at the role of the business mentor and the many benefits of seeking out their support from a small business owner’s perspective.
A business mentor is an experienced individual who provides business owners with independent advice, support and guidance, helping them to successfully launch and scale their business. Providing assistance and encouragement at every step of the journey, business mentors help entrepreneurs to recognise and explore new opportunities, building their confidence, bolstering their skills and encouraging them to develop their ideas.
The role of a business mentor can be incredibly varied, depending on the needs of the business. A founder may seek to learn more about marketing strategies or boosting their team management skills and techniques. Or perhaps they are new to running a business and simply require some general, well-rounded advice.
Today, there are many different types of business mentors available, each with their own unique specialisms and industry knowledge. While some will have in-depth experience of a particular field, for example finance or technology, others boast a great, all-round reputation for working with new start-ups.
For a small business owner, enlisting the help of a business mentor can be extremely beneficial. In addition to passing on their valuable business know-how and experience, a great business mentor helps the entrepreneur to develop their own skills. A business mentor can also provide much needed emotional support. For a business owner starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, there are many strains and stresses involved in building their business, potentially leaving them feeling stressed, isolated and burnt out. They can provide empathy and support to the entrepreneur, as well as the reassurance of knowing that they have a seasoned business leader fighting their corner.
Business mentors can take a variety of different forms, including accountants, lawyers and recruitment experts. Family and friends can be a great source of support and mentorship, particularly if they have an entrepreneurial background, helping the founder to iron out their business plan and set short and long-term goals for their enterprise.
One of a small business owner’s first ports of call should be their accountant. Whether the founder needs help creating a business budget or advice on how to fund their business and prepare financial proposals, an accountant can provide highly valuable support. Further down the line, as the business starts generating revenue, an accountant can help the founder to assess the financial health of their business, providing tips on how to measure the venture’s performance and coming up with ways to help the enterprise if it is underperforming.
Lawyers can also be an excellent source of support and advice for business owners, helping them to identify the optimum business structure for their venture, assisting them in putting together a solid business plan and helping them to register their company where appropriate. Lawyers can also help entrepreneurs with mergers and acquisitions, as well as assisting them in accessing start-up financing. They can help business owners to meet legal requirements, ensuring that they have the right licensing in place, putting in place measures to protect any intellectual property connected with the business. When the business starts to make sales, a lawyer can help with debt recovery from non-paying customers.
Founders who need to hire employees may struggle to know where to start in terms of connecting with the right people to help them get their business off the ground. Business owners often turn to recruiters to help with the hiring process. A recruiter who is experienced in their particular industry can help the business owner to identify their business needs, assisting them in putting together a detailed job description to attract the right candidates. They can also help throughout the recruitment process, sourcing and screening applicants, attending candidate interviews and providing professional, impartial advice on who would be the best fit for both the role and the business.
Other business owners can make great mentors, particularly those who represent all the things the entrepreneur aspires to be. Having built and scaled their own business, they will know what the founder is going through, providing a different perspective than other professional mentors.
Essentially serving as a trusted counsellor, a professional business mentor is there to listen to and guide business owners. They can also provide valuable resources and contacts. The right mentor can help the entrepreneur reach their full potential. Great business mentors are approachable, knowledgeable and flexible, while recognising that their role is not to tell the entrepreneur what to do but rather to provide advice and the benefit of their own experience – spurring the founder on to arrive at their own conclusions and make the right decisions for their business.