Mentorship has been documented as a key ingredient to success in all professional career fields. Very few people make it to the top of their profession without having a key advisor or mentor guiding and supporting their career aspirations. Mentorship is just as critical to business success, particularly new business startups.
The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) recognizes the importance of mentoring and advising to small business through its sponsorship of mentor organizations. The SBA blog, “Finding a Mentor,” describes the myriad of government mentoring programs which includes: SCORE Mentors, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Minority Business Development Centers, Minority Business Development Agency and others.
In government contracting, the General Services Administration’s and Small Business Administration Mentor Protégé Programs have a distinguished record of success in incubating successful minority, women, and veteran owned businesses. Finding a mentor should be considered in preparing any business plan. The Retired Military Officers Association (RMOA) has established the RMOA Business Institute (RBI) to help veterans become successful entrepreneurs. Mentorship is a key component of RBI’s comprehensive program which features (1) self-paced online curriculums (2) instruction and mentoring by veterans operating businesses; (3) internships; (4) and incubation phase to help launch new businesses; (5) a Certification of Completion; and (6) technical assistance that continues after graduation.
Private sector supplier diversity programs have a goal to increase the number of minority, women and veteran business supplier’s. There are proven fast track roads to success that developing minority, veteran and women owned businesses must understand. A proven fast track strategy is to identify a product or service that a federal agency needs and successfully marketing and acquiring a significant contract to provide that service or product. Another proven fast track strategy is to find a successful business as a mentor and the third fast track road to business success is to become a supplier to a fortune 500 corporation or financially successful corporation at any level. Just like the federal government, many private sector supplier diversity programs incorporate mentorship to strategically develop an elite chosen group of suppliers that can provide a high quality product or service to the corporation.
The importance of small businesses to creating jobs is well documented as well as the high failure rate of new business ventures. Mentorship programs can and are playing a critical role in small business growth, profitability, and sustainability. They are indeed a yellow brick road to small business success!