Business Advice

Mentoring. Your secret weapon, and why you should pay for it

- September 8, 2021 3 MIN READ

Remember when you were a child, and things went wrong? You fell off your pushbike, had a fight with your best friend, had a tricky problem to solve, or some other catastrophe invaded your life? (Well it seemed like a catastrophe then!) What did you do?  asks small business author and coach Bronwyn Reid.

Most probably, you went to mum or dad. The first thing they did was calm things down. Then their experience and support helped you through the tough times, and to make those difficult decisions about life, love, education, work etc. They could see the potential in you, and wanted you to succeed.

Fast forward to your current situation. You have become a business owner, and once again, you come face-to-face with difficult times and difficult decisions.

Where do you turn now? Who can fill the business equivalent of your parents’ and family’s role?


That’s where your mentor comes in

A mentor is a person of experience that you can go to for sound advice, support or comfort when needed. Like your parents, they also see the potential in you and want to see you succeed as a business owner and as a person. They offer guidance as you learn how to develop your potential into skilful accomplishments that make a difference in society. In essence, the mentor helps you become a better version of yourself over time, through knowledge transfer from one generation (mentor) to another (the mentee).

Paid, or not paid?

Many big organisations have formal, structured, internal mentoring programs, where an early-career employee is teamed with an experienced colleague. There is no cost to the mentee – this is the ‘normal’ view of mentoring. The relationship is a way for the experienced mentor to ‘give back’. It’s a completely selfless, but active, interest on the part of the mentor in the progress of the mentee.

Under this view, paying money muddies the relationship, but I don’t necessarily agree.

Why paying for a mentor is a good business move

If you are fortunate enough to be in one of those organisations that sponsors a formal mentoring program, embrace it with both arms. Find your mentor, and learn everything you can. Equally, if you can land your ideal mentor by approaching them directly, or through one of the many philanthropic organisations that offer this service – go for it.


Several Government departments also offer free mentoring. (I myself participate in both the Queensland Government Mentoring For Growth program and the Federal Boosting Female Founders Initiative as a mentor. Both programs provide free mentoring to eligible applicants).

But not every entrepreneur is fortunate enough to find, and then win, one of these opportunities. So what do you do instead?

The answer is – find a paid mentor. Why?

Quantity

If you find that compatible, experienced, guardian angel who is prepared to be your free, long-term mentor, you’ve struck gold. Well done you. But they are in short supply, and those (excellent) mentoring programs I mentioned all have a time limit. To get the mentoring time and quality you want and need, you may just have to pay for it. In fact, there is research to show that mentoring relationships shorter than a year can produce more harm than good where children are the mentees.

Quality

There is no shortage of business advice. You are reading one of the high-quality sources at the moment, but not all mentoring advice is of the same standard. Finding someone to talk over your business problems with for a few hours isn’t hard (try a coffee shop!), but the quality of the discussion may not be what you require. Personal contact is an important component of successful mentoring.

Acquaintances

Almost by definition, a good mentor will have many and diverse business acquaintances. To achieve the level of experience and expertise you are looking for, they will have had good mentors themselves, and accumulated a valuable network of skilled friends and colleagues along the way. As a mentee, you too can benefit from that web of knowledge, and that’s certainly worth paying for.

Qualified

Your selected, paid mentor is therefore well-equipped and prepared to be the person to guide you and positively impact your life. You have pre-qualified them.

Mentoring is based on the philosophy of apprenticeship. In ancient Greece, the knowledgeable, older mentor would impart skills as well as social and personal values to younger men (it was only men then, but not any more!).

We’re not in Greece anymore…

We are no longer in ancient Greece. We are in a modern, complicated, and sometimes wholly confusing business world. Our model of mentoring has to adapt. Paid mentoring is no longer an oddity, and in the absence of being one of that lucky few who score a fee, quality, mentoring partnership, is something every entrepreneur should be prepared to pay for.

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Now read this

Lucy Liu: the power of mentorship in building a successful business