Innovation is great, but there is no substitute for experience. So what to do you when you don’t have any, or not as much as you would like?
The answer is easy: borrow it. The beautiful thing about joining the global community of entrepreneurs is that there is no shortage of people who have been there before and want you to succeed. Whether it’s help with finding funding, building leadership skills or something entirely different, even the sharpest entrepreneurs can learn something new from others.
The important thing to know is that you are not alone. Seeking out effective mentorship can be a game changer for startups, no matter what stage your business is in. It can also take many forms – depending on your needs – from casual conversations to formal programs designed to support entrepreneurs.
Here are three places to start to find business mentoring.
1. Tap your network first.
This includes family, friends and even past colleagues whom you admire and who have business experience. Let people know what you are working on – whether that’s through social channels, email or old-fashioned word of mouth – and don’t be shy about letting it be known that you are looking for good advice. You may be surprised by who comes out of the woodwork.
2. Go through a nonprofit or government agency.
The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that some two out of every three new jobs are created by small businesses, so it should come as no surprise that there is strong government support for mentoring programs.
The Small Business Administration offers mentoring programs through its Small Business Development Centers throughout the U.S., including specialized assistance for women’s and veterans’ businesses. The SBA also supports SCORE – a nonprofit organization that facilitates in-person and online business mentoring.
3. Hire a professional business coach.
If you have the budget, there is no shortage of firms that offer paid, professional business coaching services. For example, San Diego-based Vistage offers peer advisory groups for business leaders. There are also directories of business coaches such as the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches.
And, of course, we offer our own general consulting services for startups, including advice on raising money, how to deal with vendors, manage teams and more.
Word to the wise: Hiring a coach is not a decision to be taken lightly. Not only will you be relying on a mentor’s advice, but paid coaching is not cheap. Shop around and do your homework.