KB BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT 48 images JUNE 2019 Why use a mentor? I t’s the end of the day. Everyone has gone home. Everyone except the small business owner. This person is sitting, elbows on a desk, forehead cupped in hands, eyes closed. We see an exhausted person. We see a frustrated person. Perhaps this person is worried about survival, or how to take the business to the next level. In either case, it’s a person badly in need of inspiration and someone to talk to – someone who’s seen it all before, someone with a few ideas. It’s a common sight. What’s also all too common is that many small businesses don’t have the budget for directors, consultants and coaches. But the owners of these businesses still need advice, guidance and encouragement. One source is mentorship. And one attractive feature of mentorship is that it’s budget friendly. Rooted in ancient history In the world of small business, ‘mentor’ describes an experienced and knowledgeable business person willing to share their experience and expertise with a less experienced and less knowledgeable business person, the mentee. Mentorship is a potentially business- saving concept. It’s about sharing knowledge informally – and mentoring is such an instinctive human behaviour that it’s fair to assume it’s as old as humankind. Perhaps it’s deeply embedded in our DNA. To small business owners, mentorship is a valuable and generously-bestowed resource. And this time-honoured, knowledge-sharing ritual is expressed in small business through three essential qualities. Michael Best explains how a mentor can help turn a business around and what to expect from them Mentorship is a potentially business- saving concept A mentor’s three essential qualities The first two of three esse n tial qualities a small business mentor must have are obv ious: knowledge and experience. They’re so obvious we don’t need to explore them here. The third is not so obvious, but it’s certainly essential. The third quality stems from a presumption that small business mentoring is free of charge – a presumption I wholeheartedly endorse. Those who are experienced must share knowledge with those who are inexperienced. This is how civilisation advances. If the sharing can be done without charge, so much the better. I am, of course, referring to one-on- one, informal knowledge sharing, not to institutionalised mass education such as colleges and universities. I’m also not referring to directors, consultants and coaches who share knowledge as a full-time profession. I’m referring to no- charge, small business mentoring, which is not a profession but a commitment. It’s a commitment that necessitates the third essential quality of a mentor: generosity. Generosity Mentorship is an exercise in altruism, and altruism isn’t possible without generosity. Obviously you’ll pick your mentor for their perceived knowledge and experience, but if genuine, heartfelt generosity isn’t an integral part of the potential mentor’s personality, I doubt that the mentoring process will be truly fulfilling and productive. Imagine sitting down with your mentor for a scheduled monthly discussion. If this person gives you the slightest impression that you’re an imposition, or displays a let’s-get-on-with-it- you’re-getting-this-for-free-you- know attitude, it’s bound to taint the relationship. It’s bound to inhibit your participation. But selecting a mentor isn’t as onerous as it might seem. You’re not likely to pick a mentor by stabbing at a business directory with a pin. A potential mentor is likely to be (a) someone you know personally, (b) someone to whom you’ve been referred, or (c) someone to whom you’re introduced by a mutual acquaintance. You probably already know that the potential mentor has the knowledge and experience you’d like to tap into. And this person likely has