Do I need a Mentor?

(25 /09 /2014)

Mentor – it’s a key word in the world of business but they have been around a pretty much since the dawn of time.  So what is a mentor?  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counsellor or guide” but really it is anyone who helps you with your career, specific projects in your work life or general life and who does it because they want to, they expect nothing in return.

So how important are mentors?  They really can be one of your most valuable business assets.  Usually an older, experienced individual who has “been there, done that”, a mentor can give you advice, warn you about pitfalls, help you through those pitfalls when they arise and guide you towards activities that can help grow your business and you personally.  They also push you and ask the tough questions to get you thinking about how you can achieve your goals.  And they learn from their students – it’s a two-way street and mentors are always open to developing their own skills and knowledge based on your experiences.  I know this through experience with my own mentors – the very best one was patient, was an awesome listener, told some brilliant stories about both the successes and fails, imparted a lot of wisdom and ultimately, became a very good friend who still keeps tabs on what I am up to.

Mentors operate in every business sector and hospitality is no different.  Speak to any successful restaurateur or chef and they will tell you about the person they looked up to when first starting out and how they were pushed to become the success they are today.  Think about reality TV shows like “Master Chef”- Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris are the contestants’ mentors while staring in the show and it’s no secret that George’s mentor when he first started out was in fact, Gary.  They have clearly become good friends as a result of the mentor-mentee relationship with both of them going on to become very successful in the hospitality world.

But where do you find the right mentor?  There are many avenues you can search to find a mentor.  Most state governments have industry development departments which run business mentoring programs – give them a call; they really do have some great people who can help you.  Get connected through business networks like “Linked In” and look at people in your space; they also have specific group pages about finding mentors so get online and get involved.  Join an industry association and attend their networking events or conferences – it is an excellent way to meet people and identify those who might be willing to help.  Also look at individuals who are successfully operating in a similar space and ask the question – would you be interested in being a mentor?  The worst they can say is “no” but at the very least, they may be able to recommend someone who could be a mentor.  Another option is to attend conferences like the “Entrepreneurs Unconvention” which brings together experienced operators who know they’re stuff and who are interested in connecting with young entrepreneurs looking for guidance.  Google “how to find a mentor” and you’ll be amazed at the many methods you can use to identify one.

So do you need a mentor?  The short answer is “yes”!  Mentors are the difference between a good business and an amazing business and once you know where to look, you will be sure to find one.  Do your research, identify people you’d like to connect to, don’t be afraid to ask for help and get talking.  Who knows?  You might end up with Richard Branson as your mentor and that would be a pretty cool story to tell!

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