Why not just any mentor will do!
The Right Mentor for the Solopreneur by Virginia McGowan
‘Solopreneur’ describes someone who is in business by themselves, preferring to work alone. Solopreneurs have a different mindset (aspirations and attitude) and follow different business practices than other types of entrepreneurs. Although any type of entrepreneur benefits from a mentor, a mentor is critical for a solopreneur.
But not just any mentor will do.
The right mentor understands what a solopreneur wants to achieve. They realize that solopreneurs’ business practices differ from those of other types of entrepreneurs. The right mentor ‘gets’ that solopreneurs are more focused on becoming better and better at what they do, rather than on growing their business so they can hire others to do the work.
Solopreneurs face a unique set of challenges simply because they are working on their own. The Forbes Coaches Council recently identified the top struggles of a solopreneur. Feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed, keeping up momentum when you are just too tired to do anymore, lacking objective feedback, overthinking, overdoing, and overkill are some of the challenges mentioned. Your mentor needs to understand your reality as a solopreneur.
What else should you, the solopreneur, look for in a mentor? And how can you find the right one for you?
Let’s start with the last question. We often think that mentors help us develop the knowledge and skills we need to work on our business: business planning, human resources, operations, marketing and promotion, controlling financials. That’s true, but it’s not the entire picture and isn’t the place to start.
Start with your vision and values as the foundation on which to develop a focus for your life and work.
Begin with knowing yourself. What is important to you and why? Being successful in business means that you need to cultivate self-awareness and know what you want to achieve, your strengths, and your limitations. It also means being clear on your goal in life and what you need to do to make that happen in a way that is consistent with your values.
Otherwise, it’s easy to get caught up in being extremely busy but without a sense of direction, like a hamster on a wheel. As John Eggen, President of Mission Publishing Inc. says, action without focus and strategy is action without knowledge. That means you will be ‘doing’ things without a vision and a plan. Develop a focus and create a plan with your mentor to make a transformation from your current reality to your desired future. Then put that plan into action.
Your mentor is the ideal person to help you with this, so it stands to reason that you should look for a mentor who is interested in helping you develop holistically, both as a person and as a business owner. Your mentor should be an excellent listener, using reflective listening techniques to ensure that they understood you correctly and to draw you out to elaborate on your thoughts. For example, you should hear them say to you something like this: “If I heard you correctly, you are worried about…” You can then agree, correct, and/or add to what you were saying. Ensure that the person you ask to be your mentor has these soft skills.
The right mentor will encourage you to develop the ability to think deeply, examine the evidence as a basis for making decisions, and then decide on a plan of action. This approach prevents you from leaping into action without thinking the situation through. In this way, the right mentor for you—whether a solopreneur or other type of entrepreneur—creates a space where you hit the pause button and take time to think deeply, dream, reflect, and generate ideas. It’s what best-selling author and TELUS’ Chief Envisioner Don Pontefract calls Open Thinking. He promotes a mantra of ‘dream, decide, do’ in that order.
I’m not saying that the right mentor doesn’t need to have certain business skills and expertise that will help you with your business. I have a mentor who helps me with marketing and promotion, experience that I didn’t have going into business on my own.
The critical point is that you need to do your personal work first. By starting with you, you can align your business practices with who you are, what you want to achieve, what you stand for, and how you want to show up in the world. You will be clearer on which mentor is right for you.
Look for your mentor around you. Go to local business mixers and service club meetings; listen well and talk casually with people who might be a good fit. The right mentor for you is likely within a few meters from where you’re standing!
Virginia McGowan PhD of Charlottetown PEI is the sole proprietor of The Business Mentoring Solution, a writing, publishing, training, and speaking venture on all things about mentoring. She believes that with the right kind of support solopreneurs can rise to new heights and reach their true potential. Her forthcoming books are Harness the Power of Mentoring: How to Find and Work with the Right Mentor—A Guide for the Solopreneur, Harness the Power of Mentoring: Top TIPS for Solopreneurs, and How to Harness the Power of Mentoring: A Planner and Journal for the Solopreneur’s Mentoring Journey, among other publications. Visit https://businessmentoringsolution.com