National Mentoring Month is a yearly campaign that takes place every January to encourage and shed light on the importance of mentorship. Mentorship is not only important to impressionable youth but also to business owners, especially those in the early stages or moments when scaling needs to take place. In honor of National Mentoring Month, we asked SCORE mentor, Janet Lancaster to share some advice she shares with her mentoring clients. 

SCORE’s free, confidential one-on-one mentoring has been a cornerstone of the national non-profit since its start in the 1960s. In March 2017, I became a Certified Mentor with SCORE San Diego and began working with men (and predominantly) women throughout the United States via telephone, video and in person. After I sold my eCommerce business, the time was ripe to share what I’d learned in business with others that also wanted to be successful business owners.

Professionally, I have always preferred working with and for women, so it’s no surprise that female entrepreneurs prefer working female mentors. It can be scary to reach out for help with your business – your “baby”. Early stage entrepreneurs can be especially vulnerable. Finding a kindred spirit in an experienced female mentor can boost the client’s confidence and determination like nothing else. More than half of SCORE’s clients are women, yet only 20% of SCORE volunteers (aka Members) are women. WE NEED MORE WOMEN! You need not be retired to volunteer, only a desire to help.

1. Support is Essential. We all need encouragement.

One of the most important contributions I’ve made to clients is encouragement. I have been a solopreneur – three times. I know how lonely it can be making all the decisions as the “Jane-of-all-trades” as well as doing grunt work. Listening with an open mind is a key to being a good mentor. In fact, “suspend judgment” is the first step in SCORE’s mentoring methodology. Not every client has a legitimate or worthwhile business idea, but for many, what they need most is encouragement and direction on the brass tacks of getting a business to take flight. Look for this quality in a mentor – it can mean the difference between realizing your dream – or not.

2. Work “on” your business, not “in” it.

One of the common predicaments I have helped clients navigate away from is working “on” their business, instead of “in” their business. I recommend reading The eMyth by Michael Gerber – the old edition. Do you want to be the sole proprietor plumber that goes out and unclogs toilets every day or the CEO making strategic decisions and spending time on high-payoff activities like attracting clients? Your business will never be scalable if you’re doing the grunt work indefinitely.

3. Simplify your business plan.

By collaborating with and being a sounding board for clients, I have learned a lot and in turn, share this knowledge with others. One example is Tamara, a woman that wanted to leave the corporate rat race (been there, done that!) and start a hypnotherapy practice. In our first session, I directed her to our 31-page business plan template online. Two months later, she was back to review her business plan. She told me that the SCORE template overwhelming to her. She introduced me to The Business Model Canvas. It is a simple yet powerful way to visualize the nine elements of a successful business on a single “canvas”. Since then, I have used this tool with a majority of my clients. I love it so much, that I developed a 3-hour workshop around it. It is offered once a month on Saturday. It’s perfect for entrepreneurs that want to get their business or idea out of their head and bring it to life.