Speaker, angel investor and business mentor Mark Lyttleton knows what it takes to build a successful company from the ground up, having invested in and supported many early stage businesses. This article will outline the variety of different ways that companies can benefit from business mentorship, identifying the most important qualities for business mentors.

Business mentors help entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses, sharing their extensive experience, expertise, skills and contacts. The term ‘mentor’ comes from Homer’s The Odyssey, in which the character Mentor is charged with the care of Odysseus’ son, as well as all of his worldly goods.

In a modern context, mentorship is associated with the sharing of wisdom, experience, insights and knowledge to help others further their career or grow their business. Today, the term ‘business mentor’ encompasses a broad range of advisory services and activities, from business angels to non-executive directors. The embedded PDF provides information about business angels and the support they give to fledgling business leaders.

Most successful entrepreneurs attribute much of their achievement to the guidance and support they received from a business mentor. For example, Richard Branson credits Sir Freddy Laker as being a key driver of his considerable success in the airline industry.

Rather than employing a consultant to help run the business, business mentorship involves business owners relying on the advice of an experienced professional who is external to their organisation. Boasting extensive business acumen and experience, business mentors are ideally placed to help the business owners make difficult decisions; pointing out ways they might improve the business; asking tough questions; and motivating entrepreneurs to strive for higher levels of performance. You can learn what it takes to become a successful business leader by viewing the embedded infographic.

For someone to become a business mentor it is helpful, but not always essential, for them to be experienced in the specific field they are mentoring in. They must also possess sound interpersonal skills as well as an ability to teach at an individual level, reading people to assess whether their teaching approach is working. Entrepreneurs rely on business mentors for a variety of different types of support, be it simply a listening ear or careers advice.

A great business mentor is:

  • A positive role model
  • An effective communicator, not just talking but actively listening too
  • Able to provide constructive criticism without demotivating entrepreneurs
  • Empathetic, picking up on the energy of business owners

You can learn about the benefits a business mentor can bring to an early stage company by viewing the attached video.