Find a mentor, as early as you can

My biggest regret is not finding a mentor earlier on into my journey.

When I was planning to start my business I was keen to find a mentor. I was entering a sector in which I had very little knowledge. I needed help to construct a targeted marketing plan. I knew there were people out there who had already been through this process and could guide me through it in order to prevent me from making obvious (to those in the know) mistakes to achieve success more quickly. I wasn’t looking for shortcuts, just more efficient ways to do things.

Something I hadn’t considered was how much culture could change between industries. In my former world, everything I needed to research was on the internet. In my new world of micro bakery, the knowledge was held by the community and you went online once you knew specifically what you were looking for. A mentor in the bakery sector would have been able to point me the right direction to make my own choices – but from meaningful and relevant sources.

Another thing that caught me out was the impact the new day to day environment would have on me. A mentor would have supported me in the planning process to ensure that I was setting realistic timeframes in which to achieve my goals.

There are options for an entrepreneur. There are 15,000 business mentors trained via the Government-funded Get Mentoring project (2012) who have all committed to giving one hour of their time once a month for 2 years and can be found on Mentorsme. Add that to the existing database and it totals over 27,000 mentors at your disposal. In many cases they offer free advice with further payable services should you wish to take them up. The filtered results from the website are still a little broad (refinement is being worked on); however, the data is all there so it’s worth spending a little time reading through the options. The Useful Resources tab gives a great brief on what you can expect from your mentor and it’s worth checking the Mentoring Spotlight to see a range of case studies.

Another great resource is The Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE) which is a great community network. As well as promoting Mentorsme, they are also offering free membership to potential and early stage start-ups as they recognise that the earlier people seek quality support to start or grow their business the more successful they are.

My reluctance to pay for a service that I felt I should have been able to cope without left me disadvantaged. It’s my mission to help others prevent making the same mistake. Find a mentor. Let them support you to on your path to success. They are the hidden gems that can make or break a business in it’s first twelve months as well as support it throughout growth.

Rekha Mehr, who contributed this blog, is founder and owner of Pistachio Rose, a London-based business creating high-end Anglo-Indian cakes and sweets. She is working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ to be a voice in government for start up businesses and small firms.