Research in both educational settings and in the world of business indicates that students, employees, and CEOs are more likely to succeed if they had a mentor. Fortune 500 CEOs were asked what contributed most to their success. Many listed an effective mentor as one of the key factors. As a result, more and more entrepreneurs and business owners are following the lead of their corporate counterparts by engaging the services of professional business mentors.Mentoring is most often defined as a professional relationship in which a more experienced person, referred to as the mentor, assists another person less experienced, referred to as the mentee, in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less experienced person’s professional and personal growth. Successful mentoring programs do not just happen; they are the result of careful planning and implementation.Working with your own mentor can have a tremendous positive impact on your business. Whether you are an established company or just starting up, your mentor can teach you how to increase your confidence, develop vital business skills, and implement effective strategies to transition your business to the next level.Even if you consider yourself to be an expert in your field, a recognizable knowledge or experience gap may still exist or be present. You may have a great idea for a new business, but you feel like you need to verify the feasibility of your new venture or to confirm the strategies that you are considering using. Seeking the guidance of an experienced mentor who has had similar experiences is the best way to get your question answered with valuable professional advice.What does a professional business mentor do?Your mentor serves as a trusted counselor, a guide, a source of information, a provider of perspective, and the voice of experience in addition to performing a number of different functions:• Teaching you about specific business practices and functions.• Coaching you on specific business skills.• Facilitating your growth by providing resources and contacts.• Challenging you to move beyond your comfort zone.• Creating a safe learning environment for expanding your horizons.• Focusing on your total development, both professional and personal.What benefits will you realize from working with a professional business mentor? • You will gain from your mentor’s expertise.• You will receive critical feedback in key skill and knowledge areas.• You will develop a sharper focus on what steps are needed to develop professionally.• You will learn specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to your personal goals.• You will gain knowledge about business tactics that are critical for success.• You will adapt more quickly to changes in the marketplace.• You will have a ‘friendly ear’ to share your frustrations, as well as, successes.Professional business mentors are a valuable asset to any business organization.When you struggle all alone in your business, it can lead to costly and demoralizing mistakes. Having an experienced mentor spares you the trouble of having to crack the business success code on your own. A seasoned, professional mentor is the perfect person to offer help and advice, especially if you are just starting out or facing difficult challenges. An experienced mentor has been there and done that! He/she knows what works and what doesn’t work.By tapping into the wealth of knowledge and experience of a mentor, you can fast-track your business success by minimizing the mistakes most entrepreneurs make… Why try to re-invent the proverbial wheel, when you can engage the services of a seasoned, professional mentor to help you navigate the minefields associated with growing your business.Don’t be trapped into thinking you don’t need a business mentor simply because you think know your business. Just like sports, running a business is highly competitive. So, if top athletes employ coaches/mentors, then it makes perfect sense to follow in the footsteps of these top athletes and employ your very own mentor!Just like a good sports coach, the right professional business mentor will not play the game for you. They will simply assist you in determining the most effectively strategies in order to maximize your rewards and minimize your risks!How to find a professional business mentorChoosing a mentor is a serious decision. It is important that you select a business mentor who is competent, experienced, and has both integrity and expertise—an individual that you can trust in this newly formed fiduciary relationship.There are a couple of avenues you can use to find a good professional business mentor… First, you can reach out to your local sphere of contacts. Talk to your existing advisors — your CPA, your attorney, your banker, and your insurance agent. Second, you can use the Internet. Fortunately, with the Internet you are not just limited to your local geographic area when seeking a business mentor. Many professional mentors provide their mentoring services via the telephone or Skype. This is often more convenient and more flexible than having to personally meet with a business mentor.When evaluating your business mentor candidates it’s important to consider · Confidentiality: Sensitivity to the importance of confidentiality is critical. Since a business mentor will be privy to highly confidential information about you and your business, it is very important for you to discuss bonds of confidentiality with him. A signed confidentiality agreement is recommended.· Non-compete: Make sure that the business mentor candidate is willing to sign a non-compete agreement and to refrain them from advising/mentoring any of your direct competitors, not only during the course of the engagement, but also for a certain period of time thereafter.· Chemistry: It’s not just for romantic relationships! There has to be certain chemistry with your business mentor. This is someone you are going to work closely to grow your business. You have to feel a connection and a sense of trust with this person. To gauge your level of comfort with your prospective business mentor, arrange to have a couple of pre-engagement discussions with him/her.· Learning: Some experts believe that what you will learn from a particular mentor is far more important than the chemistry you have with that particular mentor. The critical question you must answer is, “exactly what I’m I going to learn from this particular business mentor that I can apply to overcoming my current issues and challenges.”· Confidence: Make sure that you have the level of confidence that you need in order to move forward, and that the person-the business mentor — is as passionate about their business as you are about your business.
A lot of small businesses don’t allocate much money to their marketing budget. But even a little bit of money can go a long way, especially when marketing online. The internet presents a great opportunity to even a one-person business who has the ability to use the web to reach a wide audience — with minimal spend. The right business marketing technique can help you take a small business marketing budget and grow your business substantially.Search Engine OptimisationOne tip to grow your small business with the internet is to optimise your website so that it is search engine friendly. Learn as much as you can about SEO (search engine optimisation) so you can get free traffic. It does take effort to optimise your site so that search engines take notice but this costs considerably less than many other marketing methods and it is the most effective form of online marketing there is. If your website is the first result when people search for the product or service you sell, you have a good chance of making a sale. There are small business SEO specialists that can help you do this.Search engine marketing techniques, such as pay per click campaigns, can be effective but they cost money per click and not every paid click will result in a sale. When you have an optimised site that attracts people naturally, you are going to get more results. The fact that it will cost you less than, say, a Google AdWords campaign means that you can do more with less in terms of marketing budgets. Many small businesses divide some of their budget between pay per click campaigns and organic SEO. This can be a good approach. Try to dominate both the left and the right side of the search engine results pages and this increases your marketing reach without breaking the bank.Social Media OptimisationSmall businesses often build their business on relationships. Social media tools allow you to do that. You can use social marketing tools to help you reach your customers so that you can get new customers and so that you can sell repeatedly to existing customers. Social tools can also help you optimise your website for search engines as well as create follower lists so that your updates are read. These tools don’t cost money; they cost time and effort. You may want to have a social marketing guru help you figure out which of the many tools out there could provide you with the maximum return on your investment and some marketing companies will take on the outsourcing of your social marketing campaign for you.Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be marketing. Small business marketing consultants can help you — even if you cannot spend tens of thousands on marketing each month.
A small business marketing approach can encompass many aspects of trying to appeal to your customers. One area you should definitely look at is competition. Chances are that you are competing with someone for market share either online, in your locale, or both. Competitive analysis can help you improve your business and help you reach customers by figuring out what your competition is doing…and then doing it too, only better.Small businesses can benefit from gathering market intelligence. And with the advent of the internet, it’s easier to do that than ever. You can analyse a competitor’s business model from afar and use this information to the distinct advantage of your business. You can do this reactively and even more important than that: you can do it proactively as well.Things you can analyse from a competitive analysis, include:-Determine which keyword phrases your competition is ranking for within top search engines, such as: Google, Bing, and Yahoo! If they are successful, it can be quickly evident whether or not those rankings are helping them and you can figure out how they went about attaining those spots. You might be surprised to find out that some of your competitors are at the top spot by default or fluke. Very little effort on your part could de-throne them.-Check page rank and source of incoming and outgoing links. You can gather reporting to help you measure how your competition is gaining online rankings and that can help you decide on an appropriate approach.-Gather market intelligence on the reputation of your competitors. If you can figure out what their weaknesses are, you can do a better job in those areas and when people go looking to buy your product or service online, they can find out that you are the expert in a particular area.It used to be that larger businesses kept a lot of their marketing secrets under wraps and it was difficult for their competitors to find out those secrets. But the internet makes a lot of marketing facets very transparent and that can work to your advantage, especially if you are just starting out as you can benefit from someone else’s hard work.Not only can you see who is leading the pack in your niche for organic search engine traffic but you can also carefully dissect those results and use them to your advantage. Many small business marketing consultants make competitive analysis a service offering and there are tools you can use to help you gain insight into your competitor’s business and marketing model that will help you find ways to surpass their success.You’d better believe that once you achieve success (if you aren’t already there), your competition will be looking closely at your marketing techniques and strategy. Small business marketing is vital for success in today’s economy and the web provides some great tools, allowing you to gain a competitive advantage.