Tips for maximizing benefits of a SCORE business mentor

By on January 12, 2018

The SCORE Outer Banks chapter, part of a nationwide organization that helps entrepreneurs start businesses and maintain good business practices once they are open for business, produces a regular column for the Outer Banks Voice highlighting the services they offer locally.

Embracing the help of a SCORE business mentor on the Outer Banks offers many advantages to entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re in the early stages of exploring a business idea or already running an established business, a mentor can provide valuable guidance, serve as an objective sounding board for listening to and evaluating new ideas, and motivate you to be more accountable.

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Nationwide, SCORE mentored businesses have a much higher rate of success than those who do not by close to 15%. Locally, one only needs to review the “2017 Best of the Beach” awards to find six were SCORE mentored businesses.

With a local SCORE mentor, you benefit from expertise and experience that can help you launch and/or grow your business. What is especially convenient is that SCORE Outer Banks mentors can use a customized team approach to fulfill your particular needs.

For example, one team may assist you with marketing challenges while another, a certified public accountant, may help you establish your bookkeeping systems.

Before you begin working with a mentor or a mentoring team, consider what you can do to get the most fulfillment from your mentor/mentee relationship.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Come prepared with a list of questions and issues you’re facing to every meeting with your SCORE mentor. Mentors are there to answer even what seem to be the silliest questions. They don’t judge you by what you know or don’t know. They are there to develop your understanding and awareness. And if they personally don’t know the answer to a particular question, they can tap into the expertise of other SCORE mentors within the Outer Banks chapter or nationally.

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Focus
When you talk with your mentor, be entirely present and ready to focus on your business issues. Unless you need them for research during your meeting, put your digital devices away so they won’t distract you from your conversation.

Have realistic expectations
Your mentor is there to advise you, not to do the work for you. You will gain insight and direction from a mentor, but you will still have to work hard. Starting and running a small business on the Outer Banks requires effort—no exceptions.

Follow through
Do your homework! You should walk away from every meeting with your mentor with next steps (a.k.a. action items). Make sure you tackle what you agreed to do between meetings. If you slack off and don’t take the initiative to complete the tasks necessary to move forward, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your time together.

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Keep an open mind
You and your mentor may not always see eye to eye on certain ideas or approaches. Rather than instantly discarding suggestions that don’t align with your initial thoughts, consider your mentor’s frame of reference and experience in working with other SCORE entrepreneurs who faced similar challenges. The right answer may not always be what you want to hear, so it’s important to listen with an objective ear.

Keep the lines of communication open
When first starting your business, you will probably find you need to meet with your mentor on a relatively frequent basis, possibly every week.

As time goes by, your need to consult your mentor may ebb and flow depending on the nature of the competition you’re facing, industry changes, opportunities you may want to pursue or the seasonal nature of your business.

Even when you don’t feel you need to meet very often, keep your mentor up to date on what’s happening in your business via email or a periodic phone call. That way, your mentor will be informed and better equipped to provide guidance when you do face a new challenge.

To enlist the help of a SCORE mentor in the Outer Banks area who has expertise in the specific aspects of small business you need help with, call 252-256-9717, email mentor@scoreobx.org or stop in at the SCORE office any Tuesday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. upstairs in the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce Building in Kill Devil Hills.

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