A good mentor helps transform businesses by providing a unique dimension to the focus of entrepreneurs. They help entrepreneurs step back from the day to day and focus on the development of the individual and the business that can support major development. A good mentor brings entrepreneurs more than tried and tested business ideas and extensive networks - they can bring a masterful wisdom that challenges basic assumptions. They help entrepreneurs test out new and often innovative solutions to help move their businesses forward. At a deeper level they help entrepreneurs make sense of the world they are entering – often for the first time - so that they can build new capabilities, realign priorities and realise opportunities by unlocking their full potential. Selecting the right mentor is essential, as this can help to quickly establish a strong relationship framework so that there is freedom to ask the challenging questions and elicit feedback to help entrepreneurs grow.

What should an entrepreneur look for? A good business mentor will help to build a sustained relationship that encourages the entrepreneur to step back and see the bigger picture and the realities of their environment. This is particularly relevant for entrepreneurs as a mentor will provide different ways of looking at issues at both a strategic and day-to-day operational level - helping nascent entrepreneurs to address what may be naïve assumptions and personal inhibitions. A mentor can also encourage more analytical decision-making, defining clarity of vision and influencing how entrepreneurs select, engage with and develop their network contacts and growing workforce.

One of the great benefits I have found from working with mentors is in deciding what ‘not’ to do. This may seem trivial, but it is very easy for individuals to waste their ‘Money, Effort, Time and Attention’ (META) on markets, projects and customers who are not going to give an effective return. Surfacing a stark reality can often be challenging as frequently given assumptions are deeply embedded into existing thinking. Raising the game and deciding what an entrepreneur is not going to do can not only enhance individual performance and improve business bottom-line but can also enable entrepreneurs to build business brands so that a clear message that targets the right customers can be developed. A skilled mentor is there to ask the ‘tricky questions’ that get entrepreneurs to think ‘outside the box’ and move out of their comfort zone. They will provide entrepreneurs with a critical and fresh approach to the way they see the world and help to ignite passion and build confidence. The business mentor can become a trusted confidante, one who helps entrepreneurs to not only look at the business but also to appreciate their skill set and understand the critical role they play in developing it.

A key outcome of the mentoring relationship should be that the entrepreneur is able to focus on being the person their business and their people need to lead them - both now and in the future. This means that entrepreneurs are ready to embrace tomorrow and the challenges and opportunities the future may present.

It is almost impossible for an entrepreneur to succeed on their own and business will only be successful with the support of others. A few words of wisdom or asking the right questions can provide ‘epiphany moments’ where the scales of mediocrity or narrow perspective are replaced by a world anew.  Business mentors can provide entrepreneurs with the mental tools to help to achieve personal goals and drive business impact for years to come. This is much more than just teaching new skills but is the development of the whole person and is critical for entrepreneurs who want to reach their potential.

Dr Nicholas Beech

Course Director / Leeds Business School

Nick’s expertise is in the areas of leadership, coaching, governance and boardroom behaviours. He has a wealth of experience having worked with a wide range of organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors. An accomplished entrepreneur, having sound local and international experience and is an inspiring organisational change agent.

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