What is a business mentor?

“What does that mean?” is the response I frequently receive when I explain that I am a business mentor. “Is that the same as consultancy”?

If you were to google mentoring, you will come up with numerous different explanations. And some of them are very similar to consultancy. I can only vouch for myself and what works for my clients. 

I see mentoring as a method to help the client attain, or at the very least draw closer to, their vision. The way I do that is to try to understand what makes them tick and, in parallel, to understand what may be holding them back.

A classic situation is the person looking for more sales. How many times do I discover that this is not simply a call for improved use of social media or brighter business cards. A more fundamental issue frequently emerges, such as time management – the CEO is always busy but complains that they never have enough spare hours for their customers. That is a complete misfit.

Drill down, and you might find a casue linked to a problematic parent-child relationship going back decades or a blind fear of handling responsibility. Yup, you start looking for your notes from “shrink 101” lectures, as you abandon your Harvard biz school textbooks.

So the next question I hear is do I have to be an expert to be a mentor. Well, there are specific subjects, where it helps or is even essential: clients who want to set up a facebook marketing campaign or who seek help in running a restaurant. Fair enough.

But take the example of somebody who I spoke to the other day. He imports and distributes mushrooms. He now believes that he can grow them near Jerusalem and export them. How can I help him set up the business?

I explained my experience in small businesses. I told him about my background in international logistics. He heard about my overseas sales contacts. “But what do you know about mushrooms”, he countered. I did not try to hide my zero knowledge, but I encouraged him to accept how that was not the main issue here.

However, for him, it was all about mushrooms and not the business model. I did not hear back from him. And I suppose that he was left in full control of his new business, wondering how to set it up and still drawing no income.

Business mentoring is all about helping people. Mentoring is about listening to people, latching on to what they do not see, and then recreating the issue in a way that they can respond to. It is frequently enjoyable  and usually very rewarding for all parties.

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