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Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Success

6 of the Best Basic Cyber Security Tips for Small Business Owners

Technology has given small business owners countless advantages, from the ability to sell to customers around the world to software that streamlines bookkeeping, inventory management, and other processes. However, the benefits that modern technology has to offer are accompanied by an increase in security risks for business owners, especially for home-based companies and other small businesses. According to recent data, over 70 percent of cyberattacks are focused on small businesses, and many attacks occur within the company’s first half-year in operation.

While larger corporations have bigger budgets for cybersecurity, there are still plenty of actions that small business owners can take in order to protect themselves and their customers from data theft and exposure. Six of these helpful tips are listed below.

  1. Invest in reputable anti-virus software.

anti-virusThe first step in protecting a small business from cybersecurity threats is to choose reliable, high quality anti-virus software to protect your PCs. Choosing a paid security program for the computers you use is a simple yet effective way to prevent exposure to malware and other malicious programs. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent, affordable options to choose from. According to the website TechRadar, some of the most highly recommended security programs for small businesses in 2017 include Symantec Endpoint Protection, Avast Endpoint Protection Advanced, and Avira Antivirus for Endpoint. Once you’ve chosen and installed security software, make sure to always install updates and patches as they become available to minimize weaknesses or gaps in protection.

  1. Create strong passwords.

While it can be tempting for the sake of simplicity to use an easy, universal password to gain access to all devices and accounts you use for your business, doing so poses a significant security risk. To create a strong password, professionals suggest phrases that are 10 characters long at minimum and incorporate a series of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The more complicated, the better.

In addition, try to use different password for different accounts. This way, if a hacker uncovers one of your passwords, the discovery will not compromise your other accounts. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider using a password management app to store them. Remember to change passwords regularly as well, as often as once every three months.

  1. Establish protocols for the use of personal devices at work.

smartphoneDue to budget constraints, many small business owners choose to have employees use their personal devices to do work. If you’ve chosen to implement this approach at your company, make sure you’ve created security protocols for employees and taken measures to protect company data in the event that an employee leaves the company or has his or her device stolen. Consider instating a policy that requires employees to use a specific security system and participate in routine password changes in order to help keep your business’ information safe.

It can also be helpful to use mobile device management (MDM) software in order to separate company data from an employee’s personal data on a device. MDM solutions make it easy for all company information to be wiped from the hard drive of a personal computer in the event that an employee leaves the company.

  1. Keep access to sensitive information limited.

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s generally best to limit access to your company’s data, network, and financial information. This means controlling which aspects of your business’ programs and data that your staff can access. Give employees permissions only for the software and systems they need to do their jobs, and make sure that you approve of any new software before it is installed. This is important because studies show that a company’s employees are statistically more likely to be at the root of a data breach than outsiders, whether they mean to cause harm or not.

  1. Make sure your employees are trained in basic security protocols.

securityTo prevent well-meaning employees from accidentally opening your company up to cybersecurity threats, it’s important that every member of your staff be trained in basic online safety. At minimum, employees should know how to securely store passwords, connect to protected Wi-Fi networks, and safely transfer files. They should also be familiar with the common signs of a cyber security threat and know how to report a potential threat to management.

  1. Make a plan ahead of time.

Because the threat of breaches only grows as technology develops, one of the most helpful things that a small business owner can do is to create a contingency plan for the best course of action if your company’s cybersecurity is compromised. Consider hiring an IT consultant to help you understand what to do in the event of a cybersecurity emergency. If you don’t have enough room in your budget to bring in an IT professional, there are many online tools to help you develop a comprehensive cyber security plan, including the Cyberplanner tool provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The planner can be found here.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

7 Signs that You Need to Move Your Business Out of Your Home

The internet is full of articles declaring the benefits of running a business out of your own home. From the monthly amount that you can save on rent to the time-saving advantage of not having a commute, there are many reasons why entrepreneurs may choose to host their business operations conveniently within their own homes.

While certain small businesses will arguably operate best from a home-based environment, others may be better served by an eventual move to a commercial office space. To know if your home-based business should be considering a move to a public location, look for the following seven signs.

  1. You’re hiring employees who aren’t family members.

The first sign that your business may be ready for the move to a commercial office space is that its operations have grown to a point where you need to bring non-family employees on board to share the workload. A business operating out of a house may not appeal to the type of talent you need. Additionally, it can also be disruptive to your personal environment to have employees join you in your home office every work day.

employees

Hiring remote employees is an option for some small businesses. However, your company may be successful enough to merit moving out of the house if you’re at a point where you have both the need and the financial ability to make room for additional staff members.

  1. You’re running out of space.

Even if you are comfortable with additional employees working from your home-based office, the amount of space that you have to run your business should be taken into consideration. As you add technology, inventory, and more staff members, quarters may become cramped. This reduces your company’s ability to stay organized and remain functional.

Additionally, your business’s growth may at some point come into conflict with local zoning laws. This is because cities have regulations that dictate the size and type of businesses that are permitted to operate within residential areas.

  1. You routinely bring clients, vendors, and business partners to your office.

Residing in a corporate space does not necessarily reflect a business’s commitment to professionalism. On the other hand, having a location outside of your home may help enhance your credibility in the minds of customers, vendors, and other relevant business professionals.

business

If your growing operations require you to routinely meet with people from these groups, a rented space may have a strong, positive impact on the confidence that they feel in the decision to work with, hire, or buy from your company.

  1. Your company could use a culture boost.

As your business grows in terms of both sales and the number of staff members, it’s important to make sure that you have a company culture that helps retain valued employees, generates a positive reputation in your community, and maintains a high level of productivity.

Moving your business out of the house and into a formal office can be an important component of creating and perpetuating a healthy corporate culture. The right office layout may be more conducive to open communication, efficiency, and an overall feeling of professionalism among your employees than an office based out of your home.

  1. You’re finding it difficult to stay on task.

No matter how secluded your workspace is from the rest of your house, working from home can be full of small distractions that eat away at your workday. This may leave you feeling like you can never get enough accomplished. Family members and pets have a tendency to disrupt one’s concentration, and the more relaxed domestic environment may leave you open to procrastination that needlessly extends your workday. Moving your home-based operations into a corporate office may help you improve your work-life balance and give you the space you need to focus.

  1. Your isolation is reducing your motivation and productivity.

Even if your home office provides you with enough seclusion to focus, some company owners simply don’t work as well in isolation as they do in a corporate workspace among colleagues. Attempting to work long term from home without socialization during the workday can leave you feeling unmotivated and lonely, leading to reduced productivity.

employee

Further, some entrepreneurs simply function better when they are engaged in work outside of their homes, feeling greater drive and inspiration when they formally separate their personal and professional spaces.

  1. Your company is financially stable enough to move.

Though this rule does not apply to every entrepreneur, if your home-based business has found enough success to comfortably afford the move to a commercial space, it may be time for you to seriously consider the option. In spite of the added expense, having an office space for your company to grow into comes with countless small benefits that may help you take your operations to the next level.

Ultimately, you will know when and if the time is right for your company to move. When you do, be sure to do your research and find a space that both suits your budget and makes you feel excited about the future.

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Business, Employment, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

9 of the Best Qualities to Look for in Small Business Employees

If you’re the owner of one of the almost 29 million small businesses that exist in the United States today, the numbers show that you are more likely to be running your business independently. While nearly 6 million US small businesses maintain between one and 499 employees, 80 percent are nonemployer firms, meaning they have no paid employees.

If you’re running a nonemployer company but are looking to bring your first staff member on board to assist you in your operations, these are the important qualities that you should look for in potential employees.

  1. Experience

employees

When hiring any employee, it’s crucial to ensure each potential job candidate is qualified to fulfill the position’s requirements. If an applicant does not have the experience or education necessary to do a job correctly, it ultimately does not matter how many other redeeming qualities he or she has. This is especially important when it comes to filling highly technical positions.

  1. Compatibility

When screening a potential job candidate, it’s important to consider how your personality, work style, and ethics compare to those of the person you are interviewing. Compatibility is an important component of hiring the right employee, and your first staff member will help set your company culture, so make sure that you’re hiring someone whose professional values align with yours. Additionally, make sure that the person you hire is compatible in terms of compensation. To keep an employee satisfied and hardworking, you should both agree on a salary that makes the employee feel appreciated but does not burden your business financially.

  1. Positivity

employees

The right employee for your company will be upbeat and energetic, and will be able to maintain a positive mindset even when struggles arise. Not only are optimistic employees more productive, but their positivity can help set the tone for the workplace and be a motivating example for any other staff members that you eventually hire.

  1. Flexibility

Work within a small business differs significantly from work at a larger corporation, especially when it comes to predictability. While a big company may have well-established operations that vary little from day to day, a small firm is often required to adapt quickly to change in order to stay in business. As such, it’s important to hire employees who are comfortable with flexibility in their roles and have no qualms about taking on different responsibilities as needed to get the job done. These potential job candidates will see unexpected change as a challenge and an opportunity for growth rather than a frustrating setback.

  1. Curiosity

The best employees are intellectually curious and show genuine interest in where your company is going and what role they can play in contributing to its success. As job candidates, they ask well-informed questions, not just about the position that they are applying for, but about your company as a whole. A naturally curious person will likely turn out to be an employee who learns quickly, seeks out new ways to accomplish old tasks, and brings fresh insight to your operations.

  1. Confidence

employee

Hiring a job candidate who displays a healthy degree of confidence can be beneficial for your company image as well as for your professional relationship with your employee. A confident employee is likely to be more communicative about his or her needs and opinions, is more likely to enthusiastically take on difficult challenges, and will represent your business well to customers. Confidence also helps employees stay motivated when working toward their goals in the workplace and makes them less likely to quit during tough times.

  1. Creativity

Creativity is sometimes overlooked when it comes to evaluating important qualities in potential employees, but your business can benefit significantly from having a team member who is innovative and forward-thinking. A creative employee can be a dynamic problem-solver and an enthusiastic learner, and may help you anticipate client needs and questions before they arise.

  1. Independence

If you’re just now bringing your first employee on board, you’re likely doing so because the amount of work you have necessitates the help of another employee. As such, it’s important that the employee you hire is self-sufficient and independent. Employees should be able to demonstrate responsibility, autonomy, and an ability to make decisions without much direction from you. If you have to spend too much of your time directing another person and walking them through every detail of a task, you will not free up any time for yourself to work on other important aspects of the business, nullifying the usefulness of hiring an employee in the first place.

  1. Honesty

employee

Honesty is an extremely important trait that small business owners should look for in every job candidate they interview. Hiring an honest employee will keep you from running into the kind of problems that arise when staff members hide their mistakes or incompetency, which can lead to larger issues within your operations. In addition, your employees should be honest with clients, meaning they never make promises that they cannot keep. Employees who maintain honesty in their business dealings help establish the integrity of your business, while those who are deceitful can seriously harm your company’s reputation.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Organization, Productivity, Success, Work at Home

The Best Tools That an Entrepreneur Can Have in a Home Office

For home-based business owners, having the right office setup is a crucial component of running a company efficiently. Not only should an office be organized, have ample storage space, and maintain adequate lighting, but it must also be equipped with tools that help you work more efficiently.

If you’re a home business owner who wants to create a workspace that makes it easy to run a productive operation, make sure you invest in the following basic, essential tools and equipment for your home office.

A suitable desk

Since you will be spending a lot of time working from your desk, it’s important to choose one that meets your personal and professional needs. Factors to consider when shopping for the right desk include comfort, size, and the amount of storage you would like incorporated into the design.

computer desk

It’s also important to consider the type of work that you primarily do. If you will accomplish the majority of your tasks on a computer, you may want to look at desks specifically designed for computer use, with elevated platforms for a monitor or wiring holes that allow you to keep cords organized. If you run a business that generates a significant amount of paperwork, look for a desk with a wider surface area or one that incorporates shelving into the design. If your work involves an even combination of computer work and paperwork, consider a desk in the shape of an “L” or a “U” to give yourself more space to compartmentalize the different aspects of your operations.

A comfortable chair

Though often overlooked, a good office chair can make a significant difference in the workday of the home-based entrepreneur. You will likely spend about as much time in your chair as you do at your desk, which makes it important to choose a model that is comfortable and ergonomic. Find a seat that has the right amount of cushioning and lumbar support, and has a back rest as well as adjustable arm rests so that you can recline in a position that naturally suits your posture.

A filing cabinet

filing cabinet

Even if you tend to conduct the majority of your business digitally, it’s still important to have a locking filing cabinet in your home office. Not only does this piece of equipment serve as a place to safely store important documents, but it also provides you with a useful tool for preventing clutter. Easy access to a filing cabinet may make it less likely that you’ll leave papers lying in stacks around your workspace, which can cause stress and make it difficult to focus. In addition, regularly using your filing cabinet to store documents allows you to know precisely where information is when you need it, cutting down on the time you would otherwise spend searching for specific papers.

A paper shredder

In order to keep your filing cabinet neat and organized, you should avoid filing any documents that don’t truly need to be saved. However, when discarded documents contain sensitive information about yourself, your clients, or your company, it is extremely useful to have a paper shredder on hand. Though you may not need to use it every day, a paper shredder is a small investment that can go a long way toward protecting you from many different forms of theft.

A computer

No matter what industry you work in, having a computer is a universal need for anyone who wants to have a successful business in the digital age. If you’re looking for a business computer on a budget, you may want to consider investing in a desktop PC. If you need a computer that offers a high degree of mobility so that you can work outside your home office, look into purchasing a laptop. You can pair either option with a second monitor to provide two screens to work on, which may increase your overall efficiency during the workday.

macbook

Whichever computer you choose to buy, make sure to also invest in a high-speed Internet connection. Having quality Internet service enables you to successfully run cloud-based programs and applications, provides a stable platform for online communications between clients and business partners, and reduces the likelihood that slow Internet speeds will hamper your productivity.

Multi-function printer

Purchasing a multi-function printer will do more than allow you to print documents. Several models can provide you with the ability to scan, fax, and copy papers without the need to invest in additional, expensive pieces of equipment. Laser printers are best suited for businesses that predominantly print text documents in black and white, while businesses that often print photos and graphics may benefit most from an inkjet printer.

Cost-effective computer applications

There are many online tools that are both economical and extremely useful for business operations. Dropbox, for example, gives you the ability to store and back-up files in the cloud, making them accessible from any device with an Internet connection and protecting them from deletion in the event that your hard drive is damaged. Google Docs is a great way for entrepreneurs to work on shared files with others over distance, and it can be used for free. It’s also a good idea to purchase the Microsoft Office Suite package to secure a top-quality word processor and spreadsheet program for your business. Additionally, business accounting software or software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a necessity for bookkeeping and tax preparation.

Basic desk supplies

For true efficiency, make sure to stock your office with must-haves like a stapler, paperclips, pens and pencils, spare notebooks, USB drives, stamps and envelopes, and a calendar. While these items may seem insignificant and not critical for running a small business, having them available at the moment you need them is a serious time-saver and will prevent you from having to disrupt your workflow with a trip to the office supply store.

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10 of the Best FAQs about Running a Small Business

Recent reports indicate that entrepreneurship is on the rise in the United States, with modern technology bolstering the ability of startup founders to scale their businesses at lower costs. Those who are considering entrepreneurship for themselves should read through these 10 frequently asked questions to find useful facts and information about starting a small business in the modern economy.

Q: What kind of company is considered a “small” business?

home business

A: According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), a small business is generally defined as any company that employs fewer than 500 people. However, the SBA also dictates a size standard based on average annual revenues for the industry in which a company operates. Entrepreneurs can determine the size standard of their own business by checking the list of industry codes provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Q: How many small businesses exist in the United States?

A: The most recent data indicates that there are over 29 million small businesses in the United States. Of these, around 80 percent are non-employers, meaning they are run exclusively by the company’s founder, while around 20 percent are operated by the founder plus additional paid employees.

Q: How do small businesses impact the American economy?

 

A: Over 99 percent of all firms in the U.S. are considered to be small businesses, encompassing between 60 and 80 percent of all jobs in the country. As a group, they are responsible for roughly half of the American gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, small businesses contribute to high rates of job creation, market innovation, and diversity in the workplace.

Q: What skills do I need to run a small business?

A: While each small business will operate under different circumstances, there are certain skills that are universally important for an entrepreneur to have in order to run his or her company effectively. These include well-developed skills in areas like organization, planning, project management, communication, and sales. Entrepreneurs who find themselves lacking these abilities should consider taking business classes, finding a co-founder with complementary talents, or gaining business skills at another job before establishing their own company.

Q: Is it important to create a business plan?

business coffee shop

A: Yes, having a business plan is an important part of establishing a company of any size. A business plan outlines the company’s goals and presents market research and financial analyses that demonstrate the venture’s potential for success. Creating a strong business plan is crucial for entrepreneurs who want to attract investors, and can also be useful for educating employees and vendors about the company’s operations.

Q: How do entrepreneurs finance their small businesses?

A: Start-up capital is a must-have when it comes to establishing any business. A lack of sufficient start-up capital is one of the leading reasons why many small businesses fail. To fund a small business venture, entrepreneurs can look to banks for a loan, or may choose to finance from their own savings. Some entrepreneurs choose to petition friends and relatives for initial investment funds, while others look for financial support from venture capital firms.

Q: How much funding do I need at the outset?

A: Ideally, an entrepreneur should start out with enough capital to pay for a full year’s worth of operating expenses. This does not include the cost of initial expenses, such as equipment purchases or rental deposits for a workspace.

Q: What are the benefits of running a new business out of my home?

home business

A: About half of all small businesses are home-based in the United States for a reason. Operating a company from one’s home offers entrepreneurs a high degree of personal freedom, a lower degree of risk, reduced monthly expenses, and advantageous tax deductions. It also helps business owners save time by eliminating the need for a daily commute.

Q: What business services should I consider outsourcing?

A: Entrepreneurs without an accounting background should give some thought to outsourcing some accounting responsibilities. Keeping finances in order is an important part of running a small business, and business owners who are focused on too many aspects of operations may not be able to give accounting the attention it needs to stay error-free. Additionally, business owners should consider getting outside help with services like content marketing, which is an effective tool when done correctly, but requires a lot of focus to execute effectively.

Q: Where is the best place to look if I need help starting my small business?

A: Starting a small business for the first time can be a dream come true for many entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t mean the process is without hardship. Bearing the responsibility of running a new company on one’s own often brings about stress, frustration, and even feelings of loneliness. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help entrepreneurs deal with these pitfalls. Small business consultants make a living by coaching people through the process of running a business, and can offer useful guidance in the event that difficult problems arise. Additionally, government organizations like the SBA offer helpful information to small business owners through its website and physical locations in many major U.S. cities.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

Thinking of Starting a Business? You Need to Do These Things First

Whether you’ve always dreamed of founding your own company or only recently realized your desire to become an entrepreneur, starting a business is a labor of love that can only be effectively accomplished in steps. If you believe that you’re finally ready to found your own company, follow these steps to build a strong foundation for future success.

  1. Conduct Sufficient Research

Research is the first step that every business owner should take before starting a company. Your ideas may be innovative, but that doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t thought of them first. This means that it’s important to appraise the competition through thorough investigation of the existing market.

market research

If you’re planning on entering a market that already exists, make sure your company has something to offer that improves upon or is more cost-effective than the competition. If your business offers a brand-new product or service, ask yourself if your business is fulfilling a need, creating a solution to a problem, or offering a product that consumers really want. If the answer to these questions is no, you may not be ready to start a company.

  1. Have a Detailed Plan

If, after research, you’ve decided that there is a need for your company’s product or service, it’s time to create a business plan. This plan should detail your goals for the company and the steps you’re going to take to reach them. If you don’t plan to seek the support of investors, your business plan doesn’t need to be more than a simple document detailing your mission, target market, goals, and the financial means you’ll use to keep your work going through the early phases of development.

If you are looking for investors to support your new venture, your business plan will need to follow a more traditional format. Traditional business plans typically require data to prove the viability of your company, including analyses of your marketing and financial strategies, details of the business structure, and pricing for your products or services.

  1. Find Your Financial Footing

If you don’t plan to leverage the support of investors to get your company off the ground, you will need to have alternative means of financial support. For some entrepreneurs, that means taking out a loan. Others decide to stay at a 9-to-5 job for longer than they’d like in order to save up enough money to support the early phases of their own businesses. Still other founders choose to hold down two jobs when founding a company, working a standard 40-hour week for a regular company and developing their own business in their free time.

However you decide to support your early operations, make sure that you have sufficient funds for both your personal and professional expenses for at least one year. Try cutting down on unnecessary costs in your personal life as well. This gives your budget as much wiggle room as possible until your company becomes financially stable.

  1. Secure a Talented Mentor

mentorship

It can be overwhelming to start a company without any prior experience as an entrepreneur, but you can gain considerable insight into the process by finding a good mentor. Ideally, the mentor you choose should have experience in founding a company him- or herself, and will provide you with guidance and honest feedback as you take the steps toward building a successful business.

  1. Get Professional Help

Some steps of founding a business are best done with the help of professionals, including those steps related to the law. As you’re officially setting up your company, enlist the help of legal counsel to ensure that your business is in compliance with all licensing and tax laws, and that you thoroughly understand all regulations within your industry.

The same consideration should be given to your accounting practices. Having an effective accounting system is crucial to the long-term success of any business. If you don’t feel comfortable running that system yourself, consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant to handle your company’s finances. If you feel prepared to manage your own accounting in the early stages of your business, choose your software judiciously and make sure that you spend time learning how to use it correctly.

  1. Create a Website

website

It’s very difficult to run a successful business in the digital age without a web presence. Make a good impression on potential customers and set yourself up for better online marketing by creating a website for your company prior to launch. After you’ve secured a relevant domain name, you can choose to hire a professional to design your website or create your own through one of the many popular site builders. Popular, low-budget options include companies like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly.

    1. Find the Support You Need

If your business operations will require the support of additional employees, start looking at candidates. If you have chosen to operate your company alone in the early phases, you will still need to find support in the form of friends, loved ones, and business mentors to encourage you and motivate you when problems arise. The reality of the hard work it takes to build a company may sometimes be overwhelming. However, surrounding yourself with supporters can help you stay inspired and keep you moving forward.

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Education, Improvement, Management, Mentorship, Productivity, Success

6 Things Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Seeking Out a Mentor

From the CEOs of the world’s most successful corporations to startup founders who operate from their home offices, studies show that professionals from all backgrounds have something to gain from cultivating a mentoring relationship with a more experienced business leader. If you are an entrepreneur who is thinking of seeking out a mentor, you may benefit from knowing the following things about mentoring relationships.

  1. You need to choose a mentor with the right qualities.

meeting

Not all mentors are created equal. Not only should the person whom you choose as a mentor have experience in building a business, but he or she should also be honest, available, and possess values similar to your own. Good mentors are inspiring leaders who come to the relationship from a place of mutual respect and who will take the time to listen to your questions and opinions, rather than simply provide you with useless advice and speak to boost their own ego.

  1. Having a mentor may help you stay in business.

It’s common knowledge among entrepreneurs that a significant number of startups and small business ventures ultimately fail to find success. According to recent studies, only about half of small businesses remain in operation after five years. However, research indicates that professionals who enlist the help of a mentor may increase the longevity of their business. Of those companies run by leaders who sought out a mentor, around 70 percent were still in business after reaching the five-year mark. A good mentor will be able to evaluate your business plan from a neutral point of view and help you to identify those areas that need improvement, which can help your company stay in operation longer than it would have otherwise.

  1. Mentors can provide you with insight that you can’t get anywhere else.

insight

In many cases, entrepreneurs must learn lessons about company leadership through personal experience. However, talented mentors will be able to share valuable insights learned from the triumphs and mistakes that they made in their own careers. Many small business leaders look for helpful information in books written by notable business executives, but these tools often omit the more intimate experiences that teach the most worthwhile lessons. Developing a strong relationship with an experienced mentor may allow you to gain insights that you would otherwise have had to learn over time, which can help you to avoid common but unnecessary mistakes.

  1. A mentor provides networking opportunities.

The value of having a mentor encompasses more than the ability to provide useful insight and help you improve your skills as a leader. Having a mentor is also an excellent way to broaden your professional network. Experienced mentors who have earned the respect of professionals in their industry are likely to have made a number of beneficial connections with others. When appropriate, your mentor may be willing to help you connect with these professionals, as well. However, it is important to note that you should never ask a mentor to introduce you to any member of his or her professional circle. Instead, you should wait for the mentor to offer. A good mentor will recognize when an introduction would be beneficial and will likely suggest setting up a meeting if your relationship is a positive one.

  1. There’s no “right” way to interact with a mentor.

conversation

If you choose to seek out a mentor, it’s important to remember that there is no “correct” way to conduct the partnership. Some entrepreneurs and their mentors hold in-person meetings, while others choose to communicate exclusively over the phone or by email. Some meet regularly, while others hold meetings on a particular occasion. The only thing that should always be present in a healthy mentoring relationship is a mentor who makes him or herself available to the mentee and is willing to answer questions. In turn, mentees should never expect to be a top priority in their mentors’ professional lives, and they should always be respectful of their mentors’ time. When you find a mentor, you should set your own standards for the relationship, while ensuring that you both agree ahead of time about how often and through what means the two of you will communicate.

  1. Mentors benefit from the relationship, too.

While you will undoubtedly derive value from a mentor’s influence, you must also recognize that the relationship should not be one-sided. Through your mentoring relationship, the professional whom you’ve chosen as your mentor may strengthen his or own skills in business, reinforcing what he or she has learned through the act of teaching you. In addition, your mentor may have the opportunity to learn new skills or meet new valuable business contacts through you and your company. Remember that simply because you have less experience does not mean that you have nothing to offer. To ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial, both you and your mentor should be respectful of each other’s time and boundaries and never take advantage of one another.