SCORE column: 'Need a mentor – who, me?'
SCORE has a network of volunteer, expert business mentors with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters. SCORE has provided free business mentoring and education for more than 50 years and includes webinars and courses on demand on a variety of small business topics.
“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” –– source unknown
As I was moving through my career, if someone had come along asking who needed a mentor I would not have been the first to leap out of my chair exclaiming, “I do, I do!” With the opportunity to reflect upon my life and career, I can now say, without hesitation, “I did, I did!”
I was blessed with a handful of mentors and benefited greatly from their presence in my life. If I were to construct my personal Mount Rushmore of mentors, I’d need a bigger mountain. Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who was trusted with the responsibility of educating his son, Telemachus. Merriam-Webster thus defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” Mentoring, then, is about relationships.
Typically, a mentoring relationship involves someone who has “been there and done that” teaming up with someone having less experience in a trusting relationship to share where they have been and their experiences – both positive and less positive for the benefit of the mentee. Like any relationship, it takes time to build a trusting mentoring relationship and the commitment of both the mentor and mentee. A mentorship partnership is intended to be longer term, contrasted with a coaching relationship, which tends to be more subject or task oriented.
A mentor is there, first and foremost, to listen. And, in the case of a SCORE mentor, to suspend judgment as well. We are there to help our client succeed. Our goal is to share our knowledge and experience, provide guidance, utilize available tools to support a client’s analysis, ask questions to assist with our client’s thought or decision processes, and help our client stay focused and hold themselves accountable for establishing and attaining their goals and objectives. We are there to provide advice and counsel, not to direct our client or their business team.
SCORE’s principal function is to provide a mentor or mentors to those entrepreneurs, business owners, nonprofit executives who believe they would benefit from a mentoring relationship. Mentors are volunteers and there is no charge associated with our services. The reason I said mentors is that it is not unusual for a client to have multiple mentors depending on the specific situation.
A lead mentor will bring in colleagues to balance off or enhance his or her particular profile to best benefit the client or client team. Per SCORE training, “the role of a SCORE mentor is this: A mentor is a person who provides useful and actionable information in the context of a long-term relationship.” There is a specific process SCORE mentors employ as well as a variety of tools available to assist the mentee from a business start-up to maturity, covering specific functions to overall strategy development and implementation. All conversations are confidential. SCORE also provides weekly webinars from its national office as well as workshops presented in the immediate geographic area.
Finally, SCORE has relationships with regional Small Business Development Centers who are positioned to provide assistance with tasks such as developing financial models or introductions to sources of financing. When our clients are successful in achieving their goals and realizing their dreams – everyone benefits – their families, their organizations and their communities.
If you are interested in exploring a mentoring relationship, or would like to know more about becoming a SCORE mentor, contact the Brainerd Lakes Office of SCORE (located at Central Lakes College) at 218-855-8151, or the Central Minnesota Chapter of SCORE (located at St. Cloud State University) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 320-240-1332; Website: centralminnesota.score.org. This is intended to be the first of regular SCORE-contributed columns in the Brainerd Dispatch. If you have specific topics or questions you would like to see addressed, please submit them to email@example.com , or drop them off at the Brainerd Dispatch.