How Business Mentors Work

Becoming a Business Mentor

If you want to be a mentor, you have to make yourself available -- physically and emotionally.
If you want to be a mentor, you have to make yourself available -- physically and emotionally.

You've worked hard for your success. After years of maxing out credit cards and clocking 70-hour workweeks, you're finally seeing the fruits of your labor. Profits are up, customers are happy and investors are knocking at your door for once. Now that you have time, you can reflect on the circumstances that brought you here. Perhaps there were some influential people along the way who gave you critical counsel and opened doors to important business contacts. Wouldn't it feel good to have that same influence on the next generation of entrepreneurs?

First, you need to find some potential mentees. If you haven't been approached by entrepreneurs in your community, make it clear that you're available. Contact local colleges and universities and ask if there are any established mentoring programs in which you can participate [source: Misner]. Your LinkedIn profile should show that you're interested in mentoring opportunities. Join your local chapter of the Rotary Club or other business organization where you can meet young people who might be looking for an experienced ally just like yourself.

A successful mentorship is built on trust and mutual interest. This won't happen overnight. Take time to get to know your mentee and his or her business goals. Harvard Business Review blogger Anthony Tjan suggests that you start by asking these five questions:

  1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
  2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
  3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
  4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
  5. How can I help/where do you need the most help? [source: Tjan]

Once you have a firm grasp of your mentees goals, strengths and weaknesses, make yourself available through regularly scheduled meetings. Be prepared to act as a sounding board for new ideas and a confidante in harder times [source: Hart]. Actively advocate for your mentee by introducing him or her to members of your professional network or championing your protégé's ideas with potential investors. You have the power to open doors that your mentee didn't even know existed.

In the next section, we'll look at the most effective questions to ask a mentor.