Why A Mentor is Key to Small Business Growth and Survival
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By presidential proclamation, November is National Entrepreneurship Month and a time for recognizing the grit, determination, innovation and contribution of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners to the nation’s economy.
Amidst all the celebrations, however, it’s hard to ignore the fact that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years (source: SBA Office of Advocacy) and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year.
There is growing evidence, however, that connecting your business with a mentor can change this statistic.
A mentor can be a game changer for small business
Research proves that small businesses that receive three or more hours of mentoring achieve higher revenues and increased business growth.
Even better, according to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.
Small businesses agree. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor say that having one is invaluable.
“For many, starting a business can be overwhelming – it’s no longer just about exploring a passion or following a dream,” said W. Kenneth Yancy, chief executive officer of SCORE, a non-profit mentoring and business counseling organization. “A mentor can help navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner, and the guidance from someone who has been there themselves can be a real asset.”
Mentoring at work: Cloth Interiors
Having a mentor can be an invaluable resource for anyone who has chosen to go it alone in business, but how do these relationships work?
Teri Cardinelli, proprietor of Cloth Interiors, a custom window treatments and fabrics showroom, learned a lot from her mentors by putting their experience to use in her own.
Having operated a part-time business out of her Kennebunk, Maine, home for 25 years, in 2012 Teri decided it was time to commit full-time to her business and move out of her home office.
Teri has tremendous talent and technical skill, but needed help getting the business details organized. She started attending two evening workshops offered by SCORE – one on marketing and other on finance. She also connected with two SCORE mentors, Sandy Carlisle and Lisa Allison. SCORE mentors deliver free and confidential advice for start-ups and existing businesses.
“Teri had extensive background in her craft, which she needed to recognize and draw upon. Most of her issues were in the areas of business management and marketing, which SCORE is exceptionally well equipped to address,” said Sandy.
With SCORE’s help, Cardinelli started making a plan for her business; found a perfect location; organized her bookkeeping, contracts and pricing; and got ready for her grand opening in May. She did all this while completing jobs, adding new customers and showing a solid profit and positive cash flow in every month of 2013.
As Cardinelli explained, “From that first meeting, I got the validation I was on the right track, experience to point me in the right direction, wisdom to guide me through my ideas and suggest better ones, and encouragement to know what my real value is to myself and my clients. That is a lot to have on my team. Because of Sandy and Lisa, my confidence just kept on building and my business began to grow.”
One month after its grand opening on May 15, 2013, Cloth Interiors of Kennebunk, Maine was nominated by the Seacoast Chapter of SCORE as a small business success story for 2013.
Teri Cardinelli’s experience is one of many success stories made possible through small business partnerships with SCORE. With 320+ local chapters and 11,000 volunteers, SCOREcan match small business owners with mentors across 61 industries, both in-person or over email.
Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE also provides inexpensive or free business workshops, webcasts and free business tools, templates and tips online. SCORE also offers a free email advice line. Simply type in your question and a SCORE mentor will contact your directly to see how they can assist.
Other sources of counseling and support
SCORE is not the only source of support in the community. Check out these other resources committed to making your small business a success:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) serve more than one million small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs each year through free face-to-face business consulting, low-cost training (covering business planning, how to access capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, exporting and more). Funded in part by the SBA, SBDCs represent the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the U.S.
- Women’s Business Centers are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. Tied closely to the SBA, WBCs are also able to advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in selling to the U.S. government, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process.
- Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide training, advice, mentoring, business planning assistance and much more. Funded by the SBA, there are 16 centers across the U.S. ready to help.
Author Caron Beesley, Contributor