How to Find a Business Mentor [& Why You Need One]

November 18, 2021 By Matt McKinlay

Two woman sitting at desk looking a computer

Yes, even CEOs need a business mentor. The CEOs who have inspired me most are those that recognize where they have gaps in their knowledge and experience and proactively seek a mentor to help build their knowledge.  Getting a mentor will help your business thrive by adding strength to currently weak areas. But before we get to how to find a business mentor, let’s talk a little more about what a business mentor is and why you could benefit from one.

What Is a Business Mentor?

A business mentor is an individual who has extensive experience in a certain field. The mentor will share their knowledge and wisdom with the mentee (also known as the protege) (you). The right mentor can effectively guide you toward achieving professional goals by giving you advice and suggestions on how to get there.

New CEOs seeking mentors should look for one that is experienced in business management, strategy and know what it takes to start and run a business.

3 Reasons CEOs Need a Mentor

No matter how much experience you have at running a business, there is always room to improve. CEOs can continuously learn how to inspire greater results from their employees and organize their companies for improved efficiency. Talking with a mentor can help you accelerate this change.

Aside from the educational opportunity, here are three reasons CEOs should seek out a mentor.

1. Offers Fresh Perspectives

New CEOs face many unique challenges right at the start. And more than likely, you won’t be incredibly confident in how you should make those decisions, simply because you haven’t ever had to make those kinds of decisions before. 

On the other hand, a mentor has likely helped make similar decisions many times in the past and in a variety of different situations and industries. As a result, they are well-equipped with the right experience to offer insights to help you make the right choice.

2. Creates Feedback Loops

Even CEOs need reassurance that they’re doing a good job (or that they have room for improvement). While you can gain some value from surveying your employees to determine how you could be a better leader, a mentor can back those suggestions up with industry experience.

With a mentor, CEOs have a dynamic form of feedback. If you have a specific leadership skill you wish to focus on, your mentor will have previous experience to help you develop that skill.

When creating this feedback loop, you may consider the following questions to ask your business mentor:

  • How do you encourage innovative ideas?
  • If you were me, how would you have approached [certain situations]?
  • What values should our business commit ourselves to?
  • How can you separate emotions from your decision-making?

3. Flattens the Learning Curve

It’s no secret that being a CEO involves a massive learning curve. Not even a highly experienced manager automatically has every skill and characteristic required to be an excellent CEO. Business mentors can help you identify your skill gaps and train you to be an efficient and effective CEO.

Additionally, there are a lot of terms and business practices you’ll need to be familiar with. If you have questions about any technical aspects of being a CEO, mentors can be an excellent resource. 

How to Find a Business Mentor

There are clearly plenty of benefits to finding a business mentor, but where’s the best place to find one? Here are a few people and places you may consider using to start your search:

  • Look within your network: Chances are there are several people in your LinkedIn connections or phone contacts who would make excellent mentors. Chat with these individuals and set up a lunch appointment to talk about the possibility of a mentor relationship.

  • Join professional associations: Is there an association or group related to your industry? Joining these types of groups can introduce you to an abundance of experienced professionals. They may also inspire productive conversations that spark ideas, essentially working as an unofficial mentoring session.

  • Consider professional service firms:  Business leaders today are outsourcing critical functions including CFO, HR, IT and marketing services.  Service providers in these outsourced firms work with many different business leaders across a diverse group of industries.  They make excellent mentors.

  • Reach out to your ideal mentor: Maybe there’s someone in your industry that you don’t have any shared connections with but was an inspiration for your business model. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them! The worst-case scenario is they say no. Otherwise, you may manage to get your dream mentor (or at least have them in your contacts).

Can CFOs Be Business Mentors?

CFOs can be great business mentors for new CEOs and entrepreneurs.  My colleague, Dave Chase wrote the following article outlining why CFOs are essential for any business.  For the same reasons, CFO’s make great business mentors.  This is particularly true for fractional CFOs who have worked in a wide variety of industries and, as a result, have seen how different CEOs operate their business. 

CFO mentors can pull from this experience and inform new CEOs which practices they’ve observed to be incredibly successful. Conversely, they may warn CEOs to stay away from detrimental behaviors or decisions they’ve witnessed.

Many times mentors will give their services for free, as a coach.  Be careful to not ask too much of them.  When the commitment for your mentor becomes more than an hour or so per month, offer to pay for their services.  In today’s world of fractional professional service offerings, hiring mentors to become part-time CFO, HR leader, CMO, etc. is quite common.  

Use Amplēo to Find the Right CFO Mentor

If you intend to use a fractional CFO service, we recommend you use Ampleo’s solution.  In addition to exploring which mentor is best for your business, we can help you know when you should hire a CFO. We have dozens of CFOs that are all trained in unifying financial information with business strategy, and are willing to give free advice, or plug in on a part time basis as your CFO. Simply contact us today so we can help match you with the perfect mentor and/or CFO for your business.

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