Finding useful business advice is easier than you think. Nick Williams shows us the way...
Business mentoring is a great way to learn from other people’s experiences and seek advice that is tailored to you. No matter how savvy you are as an entrepreneur, you will inevitably come across stumbling blocks and challenging situations and if you come across them; you can be rest assured that someone else has experienced the same.
So what is a mentor? Usually it implies someone who is more knowledgeable and experienced than you. When it comes to business however, the most valuable advice can simply come from someone who has been in a similar position to you regardless of their level of experience.
A good starting point in finding a mentor is to knowing what you want. Having a clear idea as to the elements of your business (or future business) which you aren’t as knowledgeable in. It often isn’t easy to identify or admit to these but until you do, finding the right people or groups to approach can be difficult.
Specialist mentoring can be very expensive. As the name suggests, there are individuals and groups that make a considerable profit offering advice. So here are six creative ways to get free business mentoring:
There are many online forums that welcome business people as well as mentors to engage in dialogue for example UKbusinessForums. The great thing about forums is that they often enable you to network with many other professionals rather than be in a position where you are seeking advice from just one person. Plus, if you do have a dilemma, you can reach a far wider audience and therefore gain a more varied response before deciding which solution will work best for you and your situation.
Free Hangouts on Google+
Although Google+ Hangouts are less about interactivity if you are connecting with strangers, they can be a great avenue for sources that may help you with your business. They do allow video chat on both a one-to-one basis as well on a group (up to ten people) basis too. But perhaps more valued are the shared files and videos.
There are many free networking events that take place every day at locations very close to where you are. Networking events are great as that they are usually organised with a specific group/technology/segment of people in mind. This means that if you take the time to find and attend an event tailored to your business or issue, you can benefit from meeting people whose experience is similar to yours straight away. An added bonus is that you have the opportunity to meet people face to face which usually helps in establishing stronger relationships.
Local business groups
Smallbiz.meetup.com is a great example of a site that provides information on local business groups. The best ones are those that have an agenda as you are likely to get more benefit out of attending ones which you are interested in rather than general ones where at most, you might meet someone interesting but not necessarily useful to you.
If networking isn’t your thing – although as a business owner you should make it your thing – subscribing to well-reputed blogs can provide a wealth of advice that is relevant to you. Usually these blogs have the facility to make comments which the author can respond to, so you could even establish some sort of dialogue which in some ways is a form of networking. Another benefit of blogs is that they often route you to other useful sites and resources.
Social networks are great for almost everything nowadays and business mentoring and networking is no different. There are many groups you can join which have discussions you can participate in. LinkedIn is an obvious choice but even sites like Facebook can be hugely helpful. The added bonus is that if you don’t find content or discussions that address your issues, you can create a discussion or group yourself and watch it grow with like-minded people.
Although you may be surrounded with many people championing you, there is a difference between receiving objective advice with your business needs in mind and people supporting you to encourage you. Both are needed but all too often the integration between business owners and mentors are overlooked. Hopefully these free ways to network will put you on the path to seeking advice or networking with others – you have absolutely nothing to lose.
Nick Williams works for Acuity Training, who provide hands-on professional training from their two UK offices. Nick works as an assistant on a number of courses including the intermediate and advanced Excel training courses.