Finding a Mentor: 5 Top Tips

Finding a MentorDid you know a new small business is created in Australia every 100 seconds? Did you also know that approximately two thirds stop operating within 3 years?

Greg Hayes from Hayes Knight Accountants & Advisers told The Huffington Post Australia that cessation rates are largely due to a lack of strategic planning and training, as well as failure to ask for help. 

Meanwhile, data in the US shows that 70% of mentored businesses survive more than five years. The argument for finding a mentor to give your small business a better chance of success is compelling. However, it’s not always that easy to put into practice.  

Finding a Mentor: Common problems

Business mentoring was a lot easier a few decades ago. The main problem cited today is that people are time poor. The demands and pace of the digital world mean that potential mentors have precious little free time to mentor or, the ones that are happy to give their time are often already mentoring other people. 

Another issue is that entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners don’t know how to broach the subject. Asking the question, “will you be my mentor?” can be awkward and often doesn’t get the desired result.

So, how do entrepreneurs go about getting the valuable business advice and support they need?

Finding a Mentor: 5 tips to help you find the right mentorship for you

Here are 5 top tips to set you on the right path to finding great mentorship for your business.

1. Don’t limit your options geographically

You don’t need to physically meet somebody to be able to learn from them. The internet allows us to connect with anybody, anywhere. It’s a practical way to have a mentoring relationship with people outside your immediate vicinity. Online, you can access business brains and leaders, all over the world, giving you extraordinary choice so you can find the perfect mentor. 

Zoom, Skype, email, social media, WhatsApp, or the good old fashioned telephone – whatever communication method works best for you, makes mentoring across oceans and continents possible. 

2. Don’t ask for a mentor! 

Let’s return to that dreaded question for a second: “will you be my mentor?” Nobody likes that question. If you imagine someone saying it to you, what’s your initial gut reaction? Is it, “I’d love to but I have too much to do already?”

I don’t blame you. Simply put, that question implies a commitment that not everyone is going to want to make. However, if you ask somebody you admire what e-commerce platform they use and why, or what’s their number one tip for improving SEO, you’re much more likely to get a response.

In other words, ask direct questions about specific problems. They’re easier for busy, successful business people to answer. 

3. Be a genuine fan and follower

If you look up to someone and have your heart set on them mentoring you, you need to demonstrate your genuine admiration of their work. Buy their books, watch them speak, follow their social media, engage with their content, even become a customer if relevant.

Not only will this show them that you’re serious about their advice, it will also provide you with plenty of tips through the consumption of their content.  

4. Be open to multiple relationships

Be open to the fact that you can learn all the time and not just from one person. Many heads are better than one, so why put so much pressure on just the one relationship? Learn from several people. It’s about surrounding yourself with a support network of advisers and individuals whose opinions you respect and trust. 

Don’t underestimate the guidance you can receive from your peers. They may have skills you want to develop, or perhaps they recently went through what you’re tackling right now. Often, they’re in a position similar to yours, so their tips and strategies are likely to be super relevant to you.

5. Join a networking group that provides mentoring

Behind Closed Doors was established because I recognised a serious gap in peer supported networking, coaching and mentoring, designed specifically for businesswomen. Our unique model provides business owners, Executives and Managers the opportunity to openly discuss business strategies, issues & challenges and support each other to attain greater professional and personal success. It’s the ideal way to gain in person, mentoring support.

The peer networking and mentoring provided by Behind Closed Doors (BCD) delivers practical and valuable lessons, to help build your success. Entrepreneur Member, Sheree Sullivan says that through her years of attending BCD sessions, she has built the confidence to tackle difficult conversations head on. “Through the strong leadership of Donny Walford and my Facilitator Kylie Bishop – who both call a spade a spade, I have learnt to just act on difficult issues, I don’t overthink it, I just get on and do it.”

If help, support and guidance are what you’re after, there are many ways to get it. Whether you opt for a single, face-to-face mentor, a network of online advisers, or a networking group such as Behind Closed Doors; get the most out of your interactions by asking pertinent questions. Soak up the knowledge and experience offered, act on the information that resonates with you and park the advice that doesn’t feel right. 

Remember to follow your own intuition. At the end of the day, it’s your business, so it’s important that you do, what’s right for you.   

Please share with me your experiences in business mentoring and coaching and what works for you. 

Warmly, Donny

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5 Ways To Manage Stress Effectively As A Female Entrepreneur

Donny CyclingOne in five Australians (21%) has taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. That’s according to the Heads Up ‘State of Workplace Mental Health’ report. But what about entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurs have the longest working hours of any occupational group. They’re forced to develop new skills, fast, just to manage their fledgling businesses. High workload and work intensity, plus financial concerns, are top of the female entrepreneurs’ stress list. Then, of course, there’s balancing relationships and family life. 

Just over one third of Australia’s business operators are women (34%). And around 45% of women business operators have dependent children living in their household. In fact, female business operators are more likely to have children than any other employed people.

Major wellbeing risks to female entrepreneurs

Being a female entrepreneur is both highly demanding and rewarding work. Many of us become so engaged in our work that it becomes an obsession. So it’s essential that female entrepreneurs understand how to manage their stress and allow time for recovery. Prolonged exposure to work of this sort of intensity can actually take a physical toll on our bodies.

Research shows that happy entrepreneurs are less likely to give up and close down. They are in a better position to run more successful businesses. Not only that, but their stress levels has a significant impact on their partners’ and children’s wellbeing. 

So, how can female entrepreneurs help themselves to juggle their responsibilities better, reduce their stress levels, and be more successful business owners? 

5 top tips for managing stress levels as a female entrepreneur

1. Start the day right

Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement address at University of Texas was fantastic – did you watch it on YouTube? He said: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

“It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

It doesn’t really matter whether you make the bed or not. What matters is having a morning routine that gives you a sense of accomplishment, which you can take with you into the rest of the day. Whether it’s with meditation, walking the dog, or a gym session, start the day right.  

2. Exercise/Creativity

For me, there is no better stress buster than exercise. It releases endorphins, which make you feel good. It can also act as meditation in motion, commonly referred to as active meditation . By being absorbed in an activity, like cycling, running, yoga, walking or tennis, your mind is distracted from daily worries. It can even widen your perspective and allow you to realise solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. 

Exercise also promotes good natural sleep, which we all need to be successful female entrepreneurs. Just 20 minutes a day of moderate cardio activity is recommended by the Australian Department of Health. So the time commitment is low but the benefits to your stress levels will be great.

Exercise may not work for you so do something you enjoy, like opting for a creative outlet such as arts, music, dancing.

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is all about being present in the here and now. Yes, you can learn from mistakes and plan for the future, but rumination and worrying is pointless. Or as it’s said in the piece written by Mary Schmich and made famous by Baz Lurhmann’s hit song, Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen, “know that worrying is about as useful as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”

It’s not worth worrying until something bad happens. Then you take action. Many  entrepreneurs are chronic worriers, which affects their business success and their quality of life. Ask yourself, “what can I do now?” If the answer is “nothing”, or you’re already doing everything you can, let go of the worry. Easier said than done, I know… 

4. Equip yourself

The antidote to stress is often knowledge and/or preparation. If you feel stressed because you don’t know what you’re doing, invest some time and/or money into improving your knowledge or skills in that area. 

Time is always going to be an issue, I get it. There aren’t enough hours in the day. So you need to consider how much that additional knowledge is worth to you. If it’s going to vastly improve your confidence, speed and/or efficiency in a certain area, make it a priority. 

Take an online program, a short course at your local business school, a workshop with a specialist, or meet up with a business coach/mentor. By improving your confidence and capability, you’ll find that a great deal of stress just melts away. 

5. Embrace the fear of failure

It’s an often quoted statistic that 9 out of 10 startups will fail. The Small Business Association (SBA) puts it at 50% (within the first 5 years). Whatever the exact percentage, the reality is that as an entrepreneur you need to be comfortable with the idea of failure.  

Adopt a strategy that allows you to “fail fast”, learn, then move on, as this is key to reducing stress. It doesn’t matter if you fail. View failure as a learning opportunity.  It is part and parcel of entrepreneurship. What matters is what lessons you learn from those failures and what you do next.  And above all, in my opinion, failure is giving up, so persist and remember, you don’t have to do it by yourself.

I wish you much success on your entrepreneurial journey. Remember your purpose, why you’re doing what you’re doing. Smile. Give yourself a break and laugh in the face of challenges and so called failure! Stress is designed, evolutionally, to improve our performance. But only temporarily; we also need time to recover. So if you’re looking for support to be better equipped to look after yourself and your business, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and learning network.

I would love to hear about your top ticks for managing stress effectively.


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