Mark Lyttleton: Mentoring and Advising Are Crucial to Small Businesses Success

As an angel investor, business mentor and founder of Prana Partners, Mark Lyttleton has extensive experience of helping entrepreneurs to negotiate the considerable challenges involved in establishing and growing a new business. This article will examine the importance of mentoring and advice from the small business owner’s perspective, utilising a seasoned business leader’s experience, knowledge and contacts to avoid common pitfalls and recognise and capitalise on untapped market opportunities.

According to a report by Entrepreneur, a business founder who has received mentoring from a top-performing entrepreneur is three times more likely to go on to become a top performer themselves.

In essence, a business mentor is an individual with extensive business experience who is willing to serve as a trusted confidante to founders over an extended period of time. The role involves providing advice, support, a fresh perspective, counselling and collaboration to help the entrepreneur remain focused on their ultimate goal: making their venture a success.

Research from Jupiter Business Mentors suggests that 93% of young entrepreneurs recognise the value of interacting with a mentor who has been there, done that and seen it all before. Jupiter Business Mentors’ research also reveals that 8 out of 10 mentored businesses go on to realise long-term growth, success and rising business revenues, with their survival rate double that of non-mentored businesses.

Around the world today, founders are benefiting from the mentoring of top-performing entrepreneurs. Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page benefited from mentoring from Eric Schmidt. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by none other than Steve Jobs, who himself names his mentors as John Sculley and Ed Woolard. Meanwhile, Bill Gates cites Warren Buffet as his mentor, while Bob Iger attributes his tremendous success at Walt Disney to his former boss Tom Murphy, who inspired him to create a mentorship programming pairing Disney executives with tech start-up CEOs.

The impact of business mentoring cannot be overstated, with research by Kabbage Inc. revealing that 92% of small business owners agree that mentorship can have a direct impact on the growth and survival of their business. In addition, Kabbage Inc’s research also suggests that 89% of small business owners who did not receive mentoring went on to wish that they had.

Mentors support small business owners in a variety of different ways. First and foremost, they serve as navigators, helping entrepreneurs to recognise the right route to reach their destination and achieve their business goals. Entrepreneurial success depends on a combination of many different factors, one of the most important being the need for the business owner to continually strive to learn as much as possible about their business. A business mentor can help a founder to expand their viewpoint, helping them to look at situations from different perspectives to find the best possible solution to problems. A mentor also instils in founders the confidence to collaborate with trusted sources, helping to ensure a smooth and safe journey to their entrepreneurial destination.

Mentors provide unbiased opinions. They can also help business owners to create a roadmap, identifying business goals and celebrating important milestones as and when they are achieved to help the founder remain engaged and enthusiastic. One important aspect mentors can help with is investment, particularly from angel investors and venture capitalists, who are likely to invest in a start-up if the founder can show them the potential of their promising idea to translate into a profitable business.

However, despite the many well-reported benefits of business mentorship, just 22% of small business owners report that they received mentoring when they started their business. Another 17% report receiving support from a trusted advisor, in many cases on a paid consultancy basis. This leaves a staggering 63% of small business owners without professional guidance during the formative stages of their business. Bearing in mind that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year of trading, with a further 30% failing in their second, it seems only natural for shrewd business owners to draw on all of the resources available to them, helping them to stack the odds in their favour and create a firm foundation upon which to grow their business.

The good news is that today’s successful entrepreneurs who managed to make it on their own without mentorship are keen to help the next generation of founders, with 61% of current small business owners mentoring other entrepreneurs and 58% specifically targeting young entrepreneurs, particularly in the construction, real estate and property management sectors.

Amy Zimmerman serves as Kabbage Inc.’s Head of People Operations. She explains that a great mentor offers objective advice, providing counsel from a fresh perspective, and is willing to collaborate, listen and learn. They help founders to stay focused on their goals and purpose. In addition, businesses have a great opportunity to provide everyone at the company, from interns to founders, with the benefit of mentorship.

Claire James
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