Being in business is hard. The failure rate is an indicator of how difficult it is not only to run but sustain a business. There are many reasons for the low success rate, but one that’s often overlooked is lacking a mentor. A mentor will not necessarily be your cheerleader when you want to quit. If anything, they will dish out some hard truths because they’ve been there before and succeeded.

Why when you want to quit? Surprising, one of the main reasons that most businesses fail is because people give up. Going about it the wrong way is one thing, but sticking it through and righting wrongs is another thing. You could have supportive people around you but if they are not helping you tackle the challenges professionally, throwing in the towel always seems like the most logical option for many.

Why a business mentor is important

While your support system can do this, mentors keep you accountable. The reason they are better is because they have a business eye. They can tell if you’re working toward a goal. You could be busy and feel productive, but if you’re not meeting the targets you set, they’ll help you redirect.

Stuck on what to do next? A mentor will add perspective and clarity to any ideas you have. As the saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one’ especially if one of them is smarter. We often feel attacked when someone pokes holes in our “grand idea”,’ but in business, it’s the difference between success and failure. Mentors also help you avoid pitfalls they experienced, saving you time, money and sleepless nights.

Before you start, however, it is essential to understand what makes a great mentor. The best ones are those who ask tough questions and challenge you to surpass your targets. They, however, don’t tell you what to do. The most they’ll do is share their expertise and give advice, but ultimately, the decision lies with you. Such mentors are respectful and understand that it’s your business, not theirs. Anyone who gets upset when you don’t follow their suggestions should be avoided. They’ll do more harm than good.

Getting a business mentor

An online search for ‘top mentors in my area’ won’t do you any good. It doesn’t have to be someone prominent; they just have to be someone who runs a successful business. If you want to become a consulting car accident lawyer, get someone in the same field. Look within your local network; you’ll be surprised to find someone who fits your industry or niche.  They’ll be more willing to help if you’re from the same area.

Once you’ve exhausted your options, consider sending a short email detailing your startup and why you’ve reached out. It is crucial that you personalize your note- read on the potential mentor to show that you understand their brand and why you inspire them.

Asking for a meeting is not the best approach. Wait until there’s sufficient correspondence to initiate a physical session. In the meantime, send regular updates demonstrating that you’re listening to and enforcing feedback where applicable. When it’s time for a face-to-face meeting, request a 15-minute meeting at their office.

Once you’ve established a relationship, send monthly updates. Any mentor will be happy to know they’re making an impact. Most of all don’t stop asking questions. Create a realistic expectation as well- they don’t owe you anything. A 30-minute meeting every quarter (if there’s a real relationship) will be sufficient.

If you don’t manage to connect to this level, try again. Most of all, don’t ask a person to be your mentor, chances are they’ll bolt. Let the transition be organic and seamless.