For small business owners the first few years can be quite a roller coaster ride. Unforeseen problems, growth concerns, and not being sure of what’s next can stall many entrepreneurs before their business even truly gets the chance to get started. The stress of trying to figure out how to grow a customer base, maintain a budget, market, or find a solid niche can seem overwhelming. However, many business owners are finding a way through that uncertainty with a mentor. In fact, a mentor can seem like a secret weapon when it comes to warding off start-up stress.

The first year or two in business is filled with important decisions, and while ultimately you are responsible for your business, a mentor is someone who has been there and can share advice and guidance. In fact, having an effective mentor not only helps you navigate through your first years in business, but can also help you take your company to the next level much sooner.

Finding a mentor isn’t as easy as grabbing someone at your next networking event and asking rapid-fire questions, a mentor is someone you want to build a relationship with and have access to for the long term. So the question is, where to look?

Start With The Chamber
Through your chamber membership, you have access to the region’s leading network of successful business owners and professionals. We can help you identify fellow members willing to share their experiences, offer advice and other support to help you succeed.

Who Do You Know? – A friend or even a friend of a friend that is a successful business owner is a good place to start. Or perhaps you had a previous boss who inspired you. Go through your current network and see who you might like to approach. Once you narrow it down, ask that person to be your mentor. Let them know you admire the work they do and would like to learn from his or her advice and best practices. Be clear with your goals and what you are looking for from them from the get-go. That saves precious time and can get the process started quickly.

Trade Organizations – If there’s a local trade association that relates to your industry, try contacting them. These associations usually have a list of people who are successful in business who would be willing to help you out. Also, if you are a woman or part of a minority group there are similar associations that can assign someone to help you with your unique business challenges.

Government-Sponsored Organizations – The government offers many free resources and services to support small business owners, both online and in person. Some good places to start would be SCORE, which is sponsored by the Small Business Association; Small Business Development Centers; Women’s Business Centers; Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers; Minority Business Development Agency; and additional options that can be found on Business.USA.gov.

Once you find a mentor and get started, make the relationship reciprocal by serving as a source of information and support for your mentor in some way. It’s the proverbial two-way street, so create a relationship where you both win.

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