Do you need a business mentor?

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When I started my own business, I knew I needed to seek advice and support, and surround myself with people who could help me succeed.

I had never considered getting a mentor until about 18 months into self-employment when I discovered the world of business coaching. Over the following months I worked with a few different types of coaches and mentors and discovered the benefits, but also the downsides of having a mentor.

Whilst I believe some mentoring is hugely beneficial to help you develop your business and career, there are some pitfalls to look out for. Only you can decide whether you need a mentor to succeed, but to help, I’m sharing the pros and cons from my own personal experience.

The pros

1. Someone who understands where you are

One of the biggest benefits was to have someone who understood my business, the position I was in and who rooted for me. There were very few people in my personal circles who ran a business or were in my industry, and they weren’t the best people to turn to for advice. The best mentors were able to relate to where I was and understood the unique challenges and ambitions I had.

2. Someone pushing me to grow

A good mentor will be a great cheerleader and if you’re self employed, the boss you don’t have. They’ll push you to keep going and growing. Your success is their success, and you know you’ve always got someone on your side.

3. Save  time and money

You don’t know what you don’t know. That was one of my biggest problems to growing and developing my practice. I found mentors who’d trod the path I was on were able to help me avoid making the same mistakes which saved me time and money.

4. Accountability

When you’re having to self motivate, and visibly put yourself out there as a professional, a lot of fear and procrastination can show up. The biggest benefit for having a mentor was ongoing accountability. Meeting weekly meant I had someone asking why things weren’t getting done. This was vital to helping me succeed faster.

The cons

1. There’s quite a few charlatans out there

As with any industry that’s not heavily regulated, there are some charlatans out there. I bought into the hype of a business coach who was helping their clients seemingly get great results and hired her thinking she’d help me do the same. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and my experience was second rate. You do have to put the work in (it’s not up to your mentor or coach to succeed for you) but they should also be completely professional and have your best interests at heart. Do your research and preferably find a mentor who’s been an accountant, and knows the industry inside out, or at the very least, specialises in coaching and supporting accountants.

2. You can outgrow them

I believe a good mentor will help you get to the next level of your business and career. Once they’ve got you to that level, you can outgrow them and they are no longer the same asset. This means you’re going to need to find new support , or even have a couple of different people helping you at one time.

3. You don’t always need one

I currently don’t have a dedicated mentor. Though I may consider one in the near future, I don’t believe you always need one. It has to feel like the right next step or a way to help you achieve something you can’t do alone.

4. They aren’t always free

There’s a lot of business support networks and free mentoring available, especially when you’re just starting out. However, a lot of advanced support is a significant investment. It can be really hard (and scary) to pay for the expertise of a coach or mentor. If they’re worth their salt, then it’s worth it and you should see a good return on your investment. But, there’s always the risk that you won’t.

Do you need a mentor to succeed? In short, yes – sometimes. But, it’s not essential and I know many accountants and professionals who’ve been really successful without additional support. It comes down to whether you feel you need it to help you reach your goals and ambitions.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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