How can I learn from a business mentor?

07 June 2023

How can I learn from a business mentor?


Expansion & Improvement

As a business owner, every day delivers new problems, lessons and opportunities. Finding the time to pause, think and reflect on these experiences can be challenging – that’s where learning from a business mentor can be an essential support.

After all, there’s a never ending list of tasks demanding your attention, from customers to staff, along with problems it seems like only you can solve. However, when it comes to learning and growth, reflection is key – and sharing insights with a business mentor who understands your experience can be a valuable way to understand yourself, your business and your future direction.

A business mentor is a huge asset to any founder – research shows that 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more; double the rate compared with non-mentored founders.

Tanveer Mahtab-Ahmed shares what she has learned from mentoring founders throughout her career and how you can find the right mentor to support your personal and business growth.


What are the benefits of a business mentor?

It’s no secret that the owner-manager role can sometimes be isolating. Holding the ultimate responsibility for the success of the business adds a lot of pressure – a weight that friends or family might not be able to help with. For all their good intentions, they can lack the knowledge, impartiality or distance from your own life to give you the perspective you need.

The role of a business mentor is to provide an unbiased, professional point of view rooted in relevant insight. Working with someone who understands your business and industry can be invaluable at any stage of your journey, helping you learn from their experience and avoid common pitfalls. Advantages of a business mentor include:

  • Providing a sounding board for your ideas, experiences and challenges to help you make sound decisions, even when the answers seem out of reach.
  • Using relevant expertise to offer structured thinking, guiding you through planning and strategic projects.
  • Expanding your network with relevant contacts and domain experts to support new challenges in your business.
  • Helping guide your personal development as you deal with the constantly evolving challenge of running and growing your own company.


How can you find a business mentor?

Finding a mentor is a personal decision – the core of the value exchange is the relationship you build. It’s key to work with someone you trust, respect and with whom you feel able to share the important details of what’s going on in your business and life.

The qualities of an effective business mentor should also be taken into account. Consider someone who can offer:

  • Relevant expertise in similar industries or company types.
  • The ability to listen without judgement and who can understand your point of view with empathy and compassion.
  • Constructive feedback based on your goals and experience, rather than just telling you what to do.
  • A network that aligns with your own needs, with the ability to draw on contacts for specialist areas that may lie outside their own domain.

Given the value of mentoring for the mentor themselves, there are many professionals, some volunteering, in different industries who are willing to offer an ear. Platforms like LinkedIn are good places to start your search if you’re unsure. This is especially true if you work in highly specialist area where finding peers who understand your experience is tough. This can be as simple as searching for your industry followed by 'mentor', and you'll be presented with potential options in your field.

However, the best way to find a mentor is often through personal referrals. Starting with someone you trust to introduce you to a potential mentor, can make the initial engagement much smoother. Another option is considering people in your existing professional network, such as financial advisors, members of relevant trade associations, or your accountant.


How to set up a mentoring relationship

The goal of a mentoring relationship is to provide value for both parties – that means it's essential to establish the parameters of the engagement in a way that provides clarity and boundaries. This does not have to be a formal business relationship. It could be an informal, virtual catch-up over coffee, a phone call, or even regular emails. The idea is to have regular exchanges to air your ideas, get feedback, and continue learning.

Crucially, the relationship should not be one-sided. As the mentee, you should be willing to be challenged and learn. For the mentor, this is a chance to reflect, analyse experiences, and gain a fresh perspective. Best practices should include:

  • Set clear expectations for the type of advice you need, and envisioning the progression of your mentorship relationship.
  • Agree on a consistent schedule for meetings, be it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
  • Choose an appropriate medium for communication, such as in-person meetings, phone calls, video calls, or emails.
  • Set specific start and end times for each meeting to respect each other's schedules.
  • Cultivate a relationship where you can comfortably share your successes, challenges, and mistakes.
    Request your mentor to provide constructive, actionable feedback rather than generic advice


The power of a Haines Watts mentor

At Haines Watts, we pride ourselves on building strong relationships with small business owners based on robust data, sound experience and trust. Our accountants have worked with businesses like yours, building specific knowledge and a wide network. But we offer more than just financial advice. Our accountants understand the changing business landscape, bringing together experience with many clients in various industries and situations, from startups to international leaders. We understand that the process of advising is not black and white – that’s why we're prepared to help you find the answers, even when they're not immediately apparent.

Remember, having a mentor doesn't mean you need to have all the answers; it means having the confidence to ask the questions, learn, and grow.


If you're ready to take your business to the next level, don't hesitate to reach out.