Mentoring: the missing link to small business growth and survival

As a former small business owner and entrepreneur, I know first-hand the support, resources and access to networks and financing that entrepreneurs need. While there are many businesses that experience success, the fact remains that only half of all small businesses survive more than five years (source: SBA Office of Advocacy); and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year. There is growing evidence, however, that connecting a business with a mentor can change this statistic.

Having a mentor can change the playing field for a small business. Research has shown us that small businesses that receive mentoring early in the development of the business achieve higher revenues and increased business growth. A survey by the UPS Store found that 70 percent of small businesses that received mentoring survived more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor said that having one was invaluable.

When Lorena Cantarovici first set her sights on entrepreneurship, she attended a workshop run by a SBA Denver Small Business Development Center that helped her develop her first business plan. Lorena’s love for hand-crafted empanadas turned into a thriving small business. Early on, she got counseling from the SBDC on accounting, marketing, legal issues and risk management. As demand soared, her business grew and she was able to move from a converted kitchen in her garage to a storefront.

Because starting a business can be overwhelming, a mentor can help to navigate the complex challenges that often come with being a business owner. There are many factors involved in business startup, from applying for licensing to securing financing. And those factors can have an impact on turning one’s passion into a profitable business. Getting guidance from someone who has been there themselves as an entrepreneur or business owner can be an added asset. In addition, there are resources available to provide business owners with the knowledge and guidance that are key to business growth, development and survival.

Having a business mentor can yield many benefits and provide the expertise that you might not have. A mentor can help you avoid common pitfalls through their real-life experiences. And a mentor can help establish you as a lifelong learner.

The SBA’s experienced volunteer mentors can provide meaningful business advice, some at no cost. Lorena is a great example of entrepreneurship, and a symbol of the many ways the SBA supports entrepreneurs as they start and grow. She was even honored as the SBA’s Colorado Small Business Person of the Year in 2017.

There are several SBA resources in the community committed to making your small business a success.

Working with a mentor or counselor from SCORE, a Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Center or a Veterans Business Outreach Center can help with all aspects of starting, growing or expanding your business.

Learn More:

The SBA will host a Twitter chat on “How to Find a Business Mentor” Thursday, February 7 at 3 p.m. ET. Join us and follow along with the hashtag #SBAchat.

SBA’s sources of mentoring and counseling:

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. Tied closely to the SBA, WBCs are also able to advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in selling to the U.S. government, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) help entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership, and SBDC counselors can help businesses remain competitive in an ever-changing global economy. Business owners can access free one-on-one counseling and low-cost training. Some of the counseling and training topics available include marketing, regulatory compliance, technology development and international trade.

SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors. These business executives share real-world knowledge at no cost and fit your busy schedule. SCORE mentors are available as often as you need in person, via email or over video chat.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.

About the author