Sometimes the hardest part of starting or growing a business is the idea that we don’t know what we don’t know. Failure to understand things like business structure, taxes, and marketing can cause all kinds of problems for a new or growing business. What is a business owner to do? How can they hope to prevent some of the pitfalls that come from simply not knowing everything there is to know about running a business? One of the easiest and most beneficial things a business owner can do is find a mentor.
A business mentor can offer real-life, been-there-done-that advice and can become an invaluable resource for an entrepreneur looking to enter a new field or market, or for those looking to take their business to the next level. Finding a mentor can be as simple as reaching out to other business owners in your area or industry and asking for assistance. Consider reaching out to your network of friends and family for recommendations. There are all kinds of programs dedicated to matching up small business owners with mentors.
Here are some of my favorites:
SCORE mentors deliver FREE, confidential, valuable advice for your business needs. Whether you are a start-up or an existing business, our mentors will help you reach customers and achieve your goals. You can choose to pursue a face-to-face mentor relationship or keep it all online. Visit SCORE here.
Small Business Development Centers
SBDCs provide management assistance to current and prospective small business owners. Their services include financial counseling, marketing advice, and management guidance. Some also offer specialized assistance with information technology, exporting, or manufacturing. SBDCs are partnerships primarily between the government and colleges and administered by the Small Business Administration. You can find your local small business development center here.
Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers
The mission of a VBOC is to help create, develop, and retain veteran-owned small business enterprises. The VBOC provides entrepreneurial training through workshops, the internet, counseling, technical assistance, and resource utilization services to veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, National Guard members, and active-duty business owners and start-up entrepreneurs in the Southeast Region of the USA. Find out more here.
MicroMentor is a free business mentor service for entrepreneurs and a rewarding volunteer opportunity for business professionals. Their mission is to help small businesses grow faster, generate more revenue, and employ more people. They make it easy to find a mentor, be a mentor, and build a business. You can find more about them here.
MilSpouse eMentor Program
The MilSpouse eMentor Program is a partnership of Academy Women and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Initiative. It is open to all spouses or widow(er)s of military members and veterans. Divorced spouses are also welcome. Representatives of military spouse-friendly firms and other career professionals may participate as career mentors. Find out more here.
GSA’s Mentor-Protégé Program
The U.S. General Services Administration’s Mentor-Protégé Program is designed to encourage and motivate GSA prime contractors to assist small businesses and enhance their capability of performing successfully on GSA contracts and subcontracts. The goal is to increase the overall number of small businesses receiving GSA prime contract and subcontract awards, resulting from mentorship and refined business practices. You can find more information about the program here.