When I look back on my career, I never really had a formal mentor. I was fortunate enough at one point to have a manager who saw skills and potential in me, long before I recognized my strengths, and she would assign me projects that were a stretch and through which I gained some confidence and expertise.
However, when you run your own business, you don’t have that insightful manager to point you in the right direction. That’s why the mentoring program offered through the Canadian Youth Business Foundation is such a good idea.
The organization not only hands out grants to young would-be entrepreneurs, but they match them up with a more seasoned business owner, so they are not alone and have someone to bounce around ideas and learn effective strategies to run their businesses.
I know I would have loved to have had someone like that when I launched my business, because at the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know.
When I first started mentoring women entrepreneurs I was a bit nervous – after all what did I know about the IT industry, for example, but what I have found is that you don’t have to have all the answers, but can connect your protégé to someone who does. Plus, no matter what the business is, the issues are often the same. Much of it is common sense, and as someone who is older (not necessarily wiser), I have a lot of experiences from which to draw on.
Right now I am mentoring three young women and I find it’s a positive experience and I learn as much as hopefully they do.
On Wednesday, we are hosting a Mentoring for Growth panel and we will hear from one such mentoring pair on what has worked in their relationship and the impact on the young entrepreneur’s business.
One concern I hear from people is that they just don’t have the time, but you know what it doesn’t have to take hours – I allocate a certain amount of time each month to each young woman, book the time in advance and for that time period, they have my undivided attention, whether it be over the phone, by email or face-to-face. Yes, there is follow up and sometimes I link them with someone, but that’s it.
Bottom line, you can ask your questions, give advice but the end decision rests with the protégé as it should. Taking over is not helpful and does not instill confidence in the young business owner.
If you are interested in getting involved, check out the Foundation’s website at www.cybf.ca. There is a quote I’ve always liked – “all that you give to the lives of others, comes back into your own.”