Marc Zuckerberg
Maya Angelou
Michael van der
Mother Teresa
Oprah Winfrey
Steve Jobs

Four ways a mentor can influence the success of your business

A widely popular saying goes that experience is the best teacher, that is rightly so, however in the world of business, lessons from experience can at times be expensive and fatal. Thus, fuelling a contrary school of thought which suggests that experience is a teacher of fools, and that a wise man learns from another’s’ mistakes, this becoming the basis of mentorship.

In entrepreneurship there are things that one has to learn on their own through mistakes, nevertheless, if there is a way to see those mistakes before encountering them, it is prudent that we take it. Mentorship at its bare minimum, involves a more experienced sometimes older person-in this case entrepreneur, taking a less experienced comrade under their wing, providing guidance, support and challenging them.

History has shown us the power of mentorship and its connection to success. It lies in the guiding relationship between celebrated author and poet the late Maya Angelou mentoring renowned media personality Oprah Winfrey. It is the late Steve Jobs mentoring the young Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg, or the relationship of the late Mother Teresa and her mentor Father Michael van der Peet. Everyone has a lot to gain from mentorship and here are five ways you entrepreneurs can benefit from having a business mentor.

In business, the difference between getting good or bad deals, securing talented vs mediocre employees may lie in knowing the right person. Having an experienced business mentor will expose you to their wide network which is most often different from yours; better skilled and resourced than you.  A call from a trusted mentor can open up opportunities for entrepreneurs, however, just ensure that when you are connected, you have value to offer to the other person.

Research has shown that businesses with mentors have better revenue than ones without. A 2012 survey by MicroMentor found that businesses which received mentorship increased their revenue by a whopping 83 percent. On the other hand, although those without mentorship also boosted their revenue during the research period, they did so by only 16 percent. Mentorship helps in making refined and informed decisions, which translates to better revenue and eventually profits for the company.

Research has shown that people have a ‘bias blindspot’. What this means is that for instance, if you have a background in computer technology, you may tend to think that the best way to give your business a competitive edge is through focusing on technology. You may believe this despite evidence showing that other techniques and areas might yield better results, this is a bias.

However, research shows that a majority of people are less likely to see how such biases affect their decision making. Only one of the 661 people sampled spotted their bias, and thus the phenomenon of the ‘bias blindspot’. On the other hand, people are great at spotting bias in other people, this is why having a mentor to give a second opinion and point out flaws in decision making is important for entrepreneurs.

If you choose a good mentor, they will have walked your shoes, gone through what you have and are likely to better predict your future challenges. Having an experienced person at your disposal is a great way to make use of knowledge that can only come from having gone through it. For instance, when a young start-up is looking for investors, getting money from the wrong person can sometimes land start-ups in power struggles and boardroom wars.

On the other hand, with the experience of a mentor who has gone through the same thing, founders can spot problematic investors from the get-go, judging from how they structure deals to what they ask for in return.

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