Article: Marian Banker

The Small Business Library

February 1, 2001

The Top 10 Steps to Build Your Business Through Mentoring

Chances are you won't be able to accomplish your business goals without the help of others. Consider the value to you and your business if you could create an extension of yourself. In such a case, those carrying out your business activities would not only think for themselves, but would be able to reach decisions in line with your vision and mission.

That is the power of mentoring. It means looking at the people in your organization, and all those you hire, in a different way than you might do now. You're seeking those with whom you can build a relationship with an additional purpose. You want as many people as possible sharing your vision and working toward its achievement. Even if the mentee moves on, it is likely the relationship will continue although it is altered. It's easy to do business with someone you've mentored.

  1. Become a Mentor.

    Being a mentor means accepting the responsibility to guide another individual in their personal and professional growth. You become a role model. That means you will be sharing information, values, knowledge and relationships. By putting yourself in the role of mentor, you will become more aware of your own qualities.

  2. Determine your mentoring goals.

    Determine what you want to accomplish through mentoring. Are you seeking someone who can complement your skills, duplicate your function or carry a portion of your responsibilities? What human resources do you need to assist you in achieving your goals? Make a list of the qualities these individuals should possess.

  3. Select the right mentee.

    You may already have someone within your organization with the basic qualities you seek. If not, spend the time necessary to find a good match. It's important that the mentee be carefully selected before beginning the process. Communicate your focus and get their agreement that they wish to be guided. Find out who they are and whether their long term goals fit within yours. Identify their strengths and weaknesses. Play on the strengths and find another way to cover the weaknesses. If the mentee has strengths that you do not, plan to utilize them to balance your areas of weakness.

  4. Reach an agreement and document.

    Once you have selected the individual or individuals you will mentor, write an informal agreement so both parties are clear on expectations. You're not creating a contract in the legal sense, but you do want to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible. Mentoring can be short or long term. Short term mentoring is usually for development of a specific skill. Long term is for imparting style as well as knowledge. The mentor/mentee relationship adds a valuable element to the typical work environment. It creates an additional positive reason to communicate.

  5. Communicate the knowledge.

    You want to accelerate the mentee's ability to accept more and bigger responsibilities and manage them successfully. Create a way to get the mentee involved in business outcomes as soon as possible. Make a point of including the mentee in the decision-making process. Explain where their thinking is not in alignment with yours. Give small assignments that you are confident the mentee can finish successfully. You're trying to create confidence in the ability to make good decisions and carry them out. Play to the mentee's strengths and interests.

  6. Let go!

    Once the assignment is given, let the mentee do the job on his own. Answer questions if asked, but don't step in unless help is requested. Acknowledge successes verbally and reward with bigger assignments. Push him to do more than he thinks he can. With each success comes growth and confidence.

  7. Allow for failure.

    Make sure the mentee knows he can come to you if he thinks something is not going well. Acknowledge his ability to see the problem. Even if things reach failure before you are made aware, ask for an analysis of what went wrong and the lesson learned.

  8. Correct and try again.

    Give the mentee the responsibility to come up with the solution and to manage the process of correction. Acknowledge his success. We didn't learn to walk the first few times we tried. It took a lot of tries and a lot of falls.

  9. Reap the rewards.

    Consider what responsibilities you've been able to delegate or have you duplicated yourself? As a result, how has that changed your role? What freedom have you gained? How has it effected the bottom line and your satisfaction in your business? Consider how you feel about yourself. Formally congratulate your mentee. Celebrate after big successes and saves. What changes would you make for next time?

  10. Pass it on!

    Now it's time to pass the baton to your mentee. Let him or her (or them) become mentors and develop others at the next level. Can you see how this process can be duplicated many times? Each time, both mentor and mentee gain. The mentor enhances his human development skills and the mentee gains the knowledge and experience to lead in his own areas of strength. Everybody wins.

The Author Marian Banker, MBA, can be reached at, or visited on the web at