“I don’t know which direction to go in or where to focus,” said a frustrated Jennifer in a recent phone call. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone to turn to for help and advice. Would you mentor me Fran?”
So many competent, creative and eager young entrepreneurs echo these feelings of isolation and frustration. Some not-so-new entrepreneurs – including myself – have had mentors turn their careers and lives turned around.
In turn, I have found great satisfaction in mentoring young people, from help with writing their first book to encouraging a fitness program or boosting self-esteem to launching their first business.
The dictionary describes a mentor as “a wise advisor, a teacher or coach.” Many of us have been in business more years than we care to admit, and have learned invaluable lessons. We are wiser and more knowledgeable. That’s why we are still in business. It is believe that we should give back and share our wealth of knowledge with young entrepreneurs. They are our nation’s future.
As a contributor to the final recommendations of the 2003 Prime Minister’s Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs, one of my adopted recommendations was access to mentoring through a National Small Business Mentoring Program, including on-line and telephone mentoring. After twenty years consulting to, speaking to and writing about small business, one a universal problem that always emerges is lack of a sounding board – someone to brainstorm with, learn from and model after. Self-employment can be a lonely affair.
Jen and I were meant to be. I kept running into her at networking events where I encouraged her to join the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers to further her business goals – which she did. A graduate of a self-employment program, she is eager to learn everything, and in October 2003, won one of their thirteen Vancouver-wide Inspiration Awards.
Her e-mail and our subsequent discussion evolved from a business training session for emerging speakers that I presented. When I mentioned mentorship, Jen jumped right in and asked. How could I refuse? She was doing everything right and just needs guidance to ensure she takes the right road to success.
A mentoring relationship can be as unstructured as the odd phone call or e-mail to regular, structured meetings. It’s about being there for someone when they need you. There is no substitute for seeing a young person progress and succeed. Last year, two mentees published their first books. The thank-you in the acknowledgements evoked quite a special feeling that dollars could never replace.
So jump in and become a mentor. Contact the business development office near you by visiting www.sba.gov in the USA or www.communityfutures.ca in Canada, where offices are listed. These offices have contact with many new entrepreneurs who would love a mentor.
If you are looking for a mentor, start by contacting your local chamber of commerce and women’s networks to let them know your needs. The easiest way is to find a businessperson whom you admire and ask – just as Jen asked me. A truly successful person will want to give back and help you.
Frances McGuckin is an award-winning small business expert, motivational business speaker and best-selling author of Business for Beginners and Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business, the U.S., Indonesian and Saudi Arabian editions are due for release in 2005. She can be reached at 1-888-771-2771, e-mail at email@example.com.
This column is available for syndication. For information, contact Frances McGuckin at firstname.lastname@example.org.