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Finding mentor key for entrepreneurs

Often the smartest people are the ones who know they don't know it all. Like it or not, a business of your own exposes you to duties, situations, problems and opportunities you may have never faced before. Is it time for you to get a mentor?

A mentor is an experienced business adviser who is willing to share information and insights on a regular basis.

If you worked in a corporate environment before going out on your own, you're probably familiar with the concept of a senior manager in the organization mentoring a younger one. Some companies have even formalized their mentoring programs.

In your own business, however, by necessity your mentor will come from outside.

If you are seeking a mentor, it makes sense to start by looking for experienced business professionals in the same business or industry as your own company.

Ideally the one you want will already know something about your work and management style. During your entrepreneurial career, you may even have a succession of mentors.

What does a mentor contribute to your growth as a business owner? First of all, he or she helps speed up your learning in vital areas. This individual is not afraid to share personal experiences with you as well as expertise. But there are other advantages. A mentor:

Helps you avoid isolation, by becoming a "trusted other" in which to confide your uncertainties as well as your breakthroughs.

Lends perspective, reminding you to "keep your eye on the doughnut and not the hole."

Supplies the candid, honest feedback you may not be getting from your employees.

Provides moral support for the tough decisions you have to make in your business.

Not so very far down the road, you will be ready to mentor individuals who are where you were only a year or two ago.

You may be pleasantly surprised to see how this accelerates your own learning and growth as an entrepreneur. You then become a contributor to the business community in the same way your mentor was to you.

In short, mentoring is a relationship that will pay dividends for both you and the individual who mentors you. Finding the right mentor could be one of the most important ways you help your business to succeed.

This column is one of a series of monthly columns by Bill Fuller which provides information supplied by the Citrus County SCORE Chapter 646. SCORE offers free, confidential counseling services to new and existing businesses in the county. For assistance or workshop information call 621-0775 or visit its Web site: