How to Evaluate if Your Business Mentor is Right for You

Cathy Burrell August 16, 2022
Business Mentor meets with Woman Entrepreneur

So you’re looking for a business mentor. You imagine a strong, confident woman, with loads of experience building businesses, raking in piles of cash, and slaying the occasional dragon or two…

Your enthusiasm is inspiring and just a tad flattering. Yet, in my role as both One-to-One Mentor, and Peer Mentoring Group facilitator, I can tell you that mentors are real people who have won and lost at business…and once upon a time, they were probably just like you! 

In many mentoring programs, including at WeBC, Mentor matches are made by considering a variety of factors. Experience, compatible industry, location (urban/rural) and area of expertise. 

If you were fortunate to have been matched with a Mentor, there is still more to consider. 

How do you know if your business Mentor is a good match?

Mentoring is a relationship, first and foremost, so you have to be able to work with this person to solve a business challenge, or capitalize on a business opportunity. If, after one or two meetings, you find yourself questioning the relationship for any reason, you may want to reach out to the mentorship organization to discuss your concerns.

But, before you do that, you may want to ask yourself a few questions…and follow up with a conversation with your mentor.

3 questions to ask yourself

1. What are your expectations for this mentoring relationship?

Did you need an answer to a specific problem, and now that you have one, are you unsure what to talk about for the next few months? 

Setting your expectations together can build a solid foundation for your mentoring relationship. Try to think of the big picture: are you asking her to focus on the symptoms (e.g. drowning in paperwork) when you need to solve the bigger problem (e.g. going from solopreneur to employer). As someone who is further down the path, she may have the benefit of hindsight to help you skip the interim steps to where she ended up on her journey. 

The company is growing fast, and I wanted to hear how other women were able to make the transition. What worked for them, what didn’t and why? I wanted to learn from others how to be able to make better, informed decisions moving forward.

Christine Grouhel, Fence ‘N More Supplies Ltd., Logan Lake

2. Are you stressed about the tasks your Mentor is asking you to complete?

Does she expect you to be more financially savvy than you feel you are? Does she ask too many hard business-related questions, and you feel you already have too much on your plate? 

Your Mentor can provide strong encouragement and guidance for your next steps, but she’s not the only person who can assist. Perhaps a Business Advisor can help you to complete your financials, or a short webinar can help you brush up on your SEO so your time with your Mentor can be better spent receiving guidance and a boost of confidence. 

3. Are you questioning the suitability of your mentor’s experience to your business challenges?

Does she use examples that you can’t relate to? Are you worried about your upcoming lease negotiation with your landlord, and you discover that your Mentor has always worked from home? At WeBC, we personally interview all Mentees to make sure we match them with a Mentor who has strengths in the areas they need. Even so, it may take some time to find the sweet spot where her expertise can fill in the gaps. Perhaps commercial leases aren’t her thing, but negotiation is! 

If you’re stressed with other aspects of your life, but need to keep your business on track, you may be projecting those feelings onto your Mentor. If you’re sensitive to questions around finances because money is one of your number one concerns, you may not react well to questions from a business Mentor who you have only spoken with twice.

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely place, it is vital to have community with other entrepreneurs who understand this world.  Find like-minded mentors who know and understand your passion and vision and also remind you of self-care once in a while!! Start where you are, there will never be ready or perfect and every mistake will lead you to your next level up.

Lianne Wessner, Lianne Wessner Coaching and Pukalily Aromatherapy , Vancouver

I guarantee you that your Mentor is familiar with situations where business and personal collide. It’s not as if the minute you turn your computer on in the morning, or unlock your store’s front door, you become ‘Woman Entrepreneur’ and leave yourself behind. 

Your Mentor has been there, remember? She will welcome a conversation about expectations, or mentoring-workload.

Signs of a great business mentor match

What does a productive, respectful, dynamic mentoring relationship look like? 

  • When you and your Mentor are really talking. Not firing questions and answers back and forth…rather, you’re in dialogue with each other. 
  • When you take the time to listen and answer, and ask questions that can’t be answered either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. 
  • When you look at the clock and realize that the time has flown by; you feel relaxed, and energized at the same time. 
  • Perhaps a challenge you had been thinking about suddenly seems like an opportunity…with a clear plan to move forward. 

That’s when you know that your Business Mentor is right for you!

The greatest lesson I learned was to get the perfectionism out of the way. I became more aware of the super high standards I had for myself. I would often put off doing things because I couldn’t do it ‘perfectly’ or needed to be more prepared. Perfectionism was actually just holding me back. Working with her illuminated how to let myself be more human and to continue to empower my purpose.

Jocelyn Gordon, The Way Forward Coaching Services, Kamloops

Try to recall why you wanted a mentor. Your Mentor is not a mind reader, or a miracle worker. She’s a woman just like you who has been where you’ve been. The mentor-mentee relationship may be unfamiliar at first. But with a little patience it may end up being exactly what you and your business needs. 

About Cathy Burrell

Cathy Burrell is Client Service Support for WeBC and an entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience owning and operating a variety of businesses. She has a Master of Education degree from the University of Calgary, specializing in adult, community and higher education. Cathy believes COVID-19 highlighted the importance of clear communication, both online and offline. She currently helps clients develop their social, listening and critical thinking skills. Cathy works with busy business owners teaching digital literacy and communication education to give them insight into their digital customer base. Follow her on Twitter @CathyCavern

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