SCORE, the nation’s most extensive network of volunteer, expert business mentors, recently released their Spring 2018 The Megaphone of Main Street data report on the state of women’s entrepreneurship. The document covered key findings in women-owned business, financing and female entrepreneurs, and the impact of mentoring on business success.
While the entire report was incredibly fascinating to read, I was particularly drawn to the section on mentorship. According to SCORE, mentorship increases the likelihood of a business opening and staying open. Mentoring is good for a business and its owner all around. If an entrepreneur works alongside a mentor for five or more hours, their business is more likely to become successful. Hard data shows that 41% of business owners that receive 2 to 5 hours of mentoring will see an expansion in revenue and business size. The gender of the mentor does not matter either. As long as a women entrepreneur has a mentor who is willing to work alongside them, they are more likely to experience success.
Have mentor; will succeed — got it. What kind of characteristics should these mentors possess to be truly effective? The Internet is littered with countless listicles of features to seek out in a good business mentor, but SCORE reveals that it boils down to five specific traits.
Here’s a look at their top five and what it means for great business mentors to embody these qualities.
Not unsurprisingly, the best mentors are helpful. What does it mean to be helpful as a mentor? SCORE interviewed anonymous women entrepreneurs about the qualities that mattered to them in mentors and one quote stated that mentors helped “keep it real.” Help for this particular entrepreneur meant working alongside a mentor whose brain worked in ways that the business owner’s did not while remaining pragmatic about their needs and situation.
If you want a helpful mentor, try to avoid seeking out anyone who thinks exactly like you. Otherwise, the relationship cannot teach the entrepreneur anything new or valuable.
2. Listening skills
For 82% of women business owners polled by SCORE who had female mentors, a mentor that listened with an open mind was a big part of the mentoring satisfaction. These numbers also closely applied to women business owners with male mentors at 80%.
More often than not, an entrepreneur may already know the answer to their question, but it helps to talk it out with a trustworthy mentor. This same mentor will listen thoroughly, avoid interrupting, and will wait until you’re finished speaking about the issues and concerns that matter to you the most.
3. Accurate assessment of the situation
When a mentor assesses a situation for their mentee, they invest a bit of time into their response. Two women entrepreneurs quoted by SCORE mentioned how much they appreciate the time taken to think about a situation versus rushing to offer advice. A great mentor understands that once they are finished listening, they must be able to provide thoughtful feedback. This feedback should reflect the entrepreneur's situation, and the mentor must fully know what they are looking for before they can proceed with guidance.
4. Providing relevant advice
According to the mentoring satisfaction rates poll, 75% of female business owners with female mentors believe that their mentors and counsel provided are pertinent to their business today. 72% of female business owners with male mentors stated the same sentiments. Your mentor does not necessarily need to hail from the same background as you (this ties in with not seeking mentors who think just like you do), but they should be able to offer specific, relevant tips for moving forward that make sense for you and your business.
5. Treating clients with respect
An overwhelming 90% of female business owners with female mentors reported their relationship together was respectful, as was the case for 88% of female mentees with male mentors. Note that these statistics are based on the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentorship is a two-way street for both parties. When one side shows respect for what they have learned, even if it isn’t always advice that they might want to hear, the other side should be able to provide it right back to them to ensure a strong rapport.
Whether you want to share your business expertise, or you need the advice of a business mentor, these five traits can help you navigate the waters so you can get the most out of the relationship.
Have you used a business mentor from SCORE? Have you mentored a small business owner via the SCORE platform? If so, drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!
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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Twitter @mycorporation.