Tag Archives: business mentor

7 Tips for Getting the Most from Mentoring

Working with a SCORE mentor can help you as you navigate the path of starting, managing, and growing a business. Mentors provide guidance, align you with resources, and share expertise in every aspect involved in entrepreneurship.

You get a lot of  engagement,  but to really benefit from your mentoring relationship you need to put effort into preparation for your meeting.

According to SCORE Maine Certified Mentor Bill Goodspeed, SCORE clients can get the most from working with a mentor by coming prepared and considering seven key activities.

  1. A concise description of your business or business idea.

Goodspeed says to include a concise statement of how you will add value. This is called a “value proposition” and is an important lynchpin for both communications with your mentor and the building of a business plan.

“Whether in a new business or existing business, I always say, ‘Genius is making the complex simple.’ It’s also critical for customer understanding and brand consistency and development.”

  1. Focus is everything..

“Many new clients are so passionate about their industry or idea that they try to do everything possible with the business,” explains Goodspeed. “Dilution can be death in business.”

He suggests to instead concentrate on the key elements and critical value proposition of the business. You have limited time and resources—so it’s important to use them wisely by retaining focus on what matters most.

  1. There is a time and place for giving back.

Many clients are extremely passionate about their communities and want to start giving back right away.

“While this is admirable, it is premature,” shares Goodspeed. “The best way to give back to a community is to make your business successful first.”

He advises putting your resources and energy into creating valuable products and services, which will translate into creating jobs and markets for suppliers.

“Once you are successful, you can contribute more to the community through various programs. However, it’s better to wait until you are successful.”

4.  Give your mentor(s) an opportunity to ask clarifying questions.

After you’ve provided information about your business and idea, your mentor will ask you questions to hone in on opportunities and issues, some you may no  have considered. This is an important step because it allows you to consider  new frameworks and/or possibilities for growth and improvement.

“Later, ask your questions and don’t be shy about it,” says Goodspeed.

  1. Be clear about what follow up work you should do as a result of the meeting and before the next session.

You will get a lot more out of your time with your SCORE mentor if you check your understanding about any action items you need to accomplish between meetings.

  1. Plan ahead and schedule the next meeting.

Goodspeed suggests scheduling a follow-up meeting on the spot before you finish your current meeting          with your mentor. “I recommend planning to meet again between three to four weeks out, depending on        the work that needs to be done in the interim.”

  1. Give plenty of advance notice if you need to reschedule a mentoring session.

“Mentors often travel to the SCORE office (or other meeting place that you’ve agreed upon) for the sole purpose of meeting with you,” explains Goodspeed.

To ensure your meeting can be rescheduled as soon as possible—and to respect your mentor’s time—communicate with your mentor immediately when you know you won’t be able to attend a scheduled session.

By following Goodspeed’s seven simple tips, you can make sure you’re getting the most from the time and expertise that SCORE mentors provide. A little preparation and focus will go a long way in ensuring you benefit fully from the insight and resources available from your SCORE mentor.

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of SCORE Maine’s free, confidential mentoring services, contact us for an appointment!

 

About Bill Goodspeed, SCORE Portland, Maine Mentor

William Goodspeed has been a SCORE mentor since spring of 2014. He is an expert in family-owned businesses, having considerable experience as family member, executive in family businesses, board member, and next generation developer. He is a fourth-generation member of the Huber family, which owns the J.M. Huber Corporation, a large international family company founded in 1883. Mr. Goodspeed serves on the board of Huber, as well as the boards of four other family-owned companies and on the Huber Family Education & Development Committee, whose mission is to develop fifth-generation Hubers for future roles as board members, executives and educated shareholders.

To devote time to family business, Mr. Goodspeed retired as Corporate Vice President of IDEXX Laboratories, a $1.2 billion worldwide leader in animal diagnostics and water testing. At IDEXX, Mr. Goodspeed managed three businesses: Livestock and Poultry Diagnostics, the world leader in farm animal diagnostics; Water, the world leader in testing for microbial contamination; and Dairy, the second largest producer of milk contamination tests.

Before IDEXX, Mr. Goodspeed held several positions in the J.M. Huber Corporation: Sector CEO of Natural Resources (Timber and Oil & Gas); President of Huber Wood Products (Engineered Woods and Timber). He joined Huber in 1994 as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development.

Before Huber, Mr. Goodspeed was Executive Vice President of Pasona International, the international arm of Japan’s Pasona Group, then the largest human resource staffing firm in Japan.

Mr. Goodspeed was also a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and an attorney. He received a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.

 

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Find Your Business Mentor

Whether you are starting or growing a business, it pays to have a mentor on your side. What is a real business mentor? Someone with more experience than you…someone who offers not only knowledge and support, but also perspective and insight. A mentor should be a savvy business veteran who can help you navigate business challenges. Mentors do plenty of cheerleading, but their real value is in the objective, unvarnished advice they provide…they often tell you what you need to hear about your business (not necessarily what you want to hear). Let’s be clear, mentors aren’t parents, friends or even supportive investors…they need to be much more objective than that.

The benefits of a mentoring relationship are compelling:   revelant perspective and advice, skill improvement, networking contacts and encouragement.     Here’s how to find the right mentor for you:

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Find Your Mentor

Do you  know that mentorship is the single most important external factor for business success?  Every small business would benefit from having a trusted mentor.  The role of a mentor is to offer knowledge, support, and perspective.  Rule of engagement: the mentor has a sincere desire to help,  and the mentee has a strong desire to learn.  The best relationships are based on mutual respect. The killer benefits of a mentoring relationship: relevant perspective and advice, skill improvement, networking contacts, and encouragement.  When your family and friends are tired of hearing about your business, it may be time to enlist a mentor.  Ready to take the first steps?

Begin by clarifying  your objectives for mentoring.  What guidance are you seeking?  Help with specific operational issues?  Hiring your first employee? Support and encouragement?  It is key to be clear what sort of help matters most to you.   Write down your issues and prioritize their importance to you.  This list becomes the starting point of your first discussion.

Gauge the fit of the person sitting across from you.  A mentor should be someone you can relate to.  If that feels like an obstacle at the first meeting, it probably will not improve over time.

Explore the skills and experience of the mentor.  Most mentors have a general business knowledge.  If you are seeking help with social marketing, it is critical that the mentor have the functional experience you are seeking.

Keep an open mind.  The mentor should offer perspective based on experience.  The analysis of the situation may result in advice that offers a different approach to solving the problem.  Be open to new ways of thinking.

Are you seeking a long term mentoring relationship?  If so, fear not and ask!  Review meeting frequency, and time allotted for the discussion. Jointly set expectations for each face to face conversation.

A final thought before you start.  You should never have to pay a mentor.  If someone is asking to paid, they are a business consultant, and that relationship is a commercial one.   A mentor’s motivation is an open and honest desire to help.  What are you waiting for?

A great place to start is SCORE,  and find a mentor for the life of your business!