By Bill Riegler
If you are a small business owner or starting up a new business, get yourself a mentor, or six.
You read correctly; the more the merrier.
Most small business owners, myself included when I owned a small business recently, do not get a mentor. That doesn’t mean we don’t ask occasional advice from friends or other business owners, however, that is different than a mentor.
Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. A mentor often has some experience or skills that the mentee can use and can provide suggestions and guidance over the long haul of owning the business or creating the startup, or at the very least for an extended period of time. This longer period of consistent time is what I believe makes a mentorship work.
In my own experience, I started a small business in my hometown of Ventura, after a 25-year career in the corporate world. I probably had more business experience than most small business startups, however, there were a few things that a mentor could have helped me out with. For example, structure, the difference between setting up an LLC versus an S corporation. An LLC is the simpler and more common small business structure, however, as the business grows, state fees based on revenue also grow. For an S corporation, the fees are based on net income, and for a low margin business like mine, this probably would have been a better option for me.
Good mentors don’t always have to have experience in your industry. Perhaps someone outside your industry can provide a helpful different perspective or offer insights from their industry of expertise.
A mentor with sales and marketing experience can be a huge plus for a small business or startup. This is especially true if the mentee business owner does not have this experience. Sales and marketing are such a very important aspect of any business that mentoring in this area can prevent potential problems.
There are many places to find a mentor. Your local chamber of commerce can often recommend a fellow business owner that could act as a mentor. There are also several local organizations connected to the Small Business Administration that often provide free mentors. These include SCORE, the Economic Development Collaborative — Ventura County and Women’s Economic Ventures. Go get yourself a mentor today.
• Bill Riegler is a small business and startup mentor for SCORE Ventura County.