Should you pay a mentor?


Having a suitable business mentor is important but should you pay for one? How would you choose a mentor that is best for you?

Becoming a business owner can feel surprisingly lonely when you are faced with making important decisions and having a trusted business mentor can be of great benefit. 

Choosing and paying for a business mentor is the best option if you do not have access to a suitable alternative.

This article explains 5 facets to look for when choosing a business mentor to support you and 5 reasons to pay for the service. 

Why do business owners use a mentor?

Often, as the business owner, you will be solely responsible for making the key decisions in your business. Making crucial decisions that affect your business or maybe your family’s security can be challenging and stressful.

While some of the day to day and operational decisions are routine for you and your team, other choices are more tricky.

It is not a perfect world and many times you may be confused about the best medium and long term options. Many decisions have to made without sufficient evidence or data to back them up. Some rely more on experience and your foresight to see an opportunity ahead. Time pressures can also increase your stress level in these situations.

An experienced business mentor can provide valuable insight along with a new perspective to help you navigate your business challenges.

Should you pay for a mentor?

You may be fortunate enough to have access to a mentor who will guide you without charging a fee. Providing they are the best choice for your needs then go for it. Below are 5 Facets to help you choose a mentor whether they are paid or not.

However, the primary consideration is that a mentor is able to assist you and your business to develop and not the fact they are a free resource.

Free does not mean valuable.

Confidentiality is also a key consideration if you choose friends or acquaintances who offer free mentoring.

Many business owners, especially new ones, do not have access to a suitable person in their network and therefore need to consider paying a mentor.

Who are your trusted advisors?

You are probably uncomfortable sharing your decision process with your managers or employees for good reasons, such as:

  • Your decisions may affect them, and therefore may bias their opinions.
  • Any decisions of a personal financial nature are solely your affair and are not for over-sharing.
  • Your team may not have the experience to give you good insight.
  • You should maintain sufficient separation between you and your team so that you make objective decisions about them.

Some owners turn to their accountants for advice; however, their accountants may not have run businesses other than accounting firms.

While they may be good at some forensic accounting, developing a strategy and plans to implement it may not be their core strength.

Not having any trusted advisors means that you will be the sole resource for knowledge, direction and decisions

How can a trusted business mentor help?

Having the ability to discuss your business ideas and challenges with an experienced, trusted mentor can be an enormous benefit.

A mentor should have the experience to constructively challenge and guide your thinking to help you decide the best course of action.

A business mentor can provide  wisdom and experience gained across years of executive leadership and perhaps different industries.

Receiving cross-industry ideas and best practices can be like gold.

Some business mentors can, additionally, have the ability to be your executive coach. A coaching role is more instructional and guides you on how to implement your plans

Does my business mentor need industry-specific experience?

Something you are probably wondering is whether your business mentor needs to have specific industry experience.

The answer depends upon where you are in your journey. A general business mentor should have a lot of experience across a large number of industries and, bring experience or knowledge gained elsewhere into your business that can make a substantial difference.

A specialist or industry-specific mentor can be valuable from the perspective of having a deeper understanding of what it takes to be successful in your niche. 

It is vital to judge whether you are their only client as an industry specialist may also be advising your competitors.

The benefit of someone outside your industry is that they will not encourage you to think like everybody else in your industry!

5 Facets to look for when choosing a business mentor

1 Trust and personality

A mentor must be someone who you will get to know, like and trust as they will learn a lot about you and your business.

If you do not feel comfortable with them, then the relationship will not work well.

2 Small to Medium Business (SMB) experience

The SMB world is not the corporate world. Pick a business mentor who has run an SMB business or SMB business unit. There is no substitute for leadership and experience with full Profit & Loss responsibility.

If a business mentor uses too much corporate jargon or over-reliance on business processes, be careful.

3 Creative Thinker

Your business mentor is not only a sounding board but they should significantly catalyse your creative thinking.

Their thinking should not be constrained, and they should bring a fresh perspective.

They should challenge your comfort zones and explore new possibilities.

4 No ego

A simple test for your mentor is whether they listen more than they talk.

A mentor needs to be empathetic to your situation and take the time to appreciate the nuances fully. Every business is unique and deserves individual attention. If they offer a highly opinionated or dogmatic approach, this will probably become a source of friction.

If they talk about themselves too much, then find someone else.

The right business mentor is more interested in their client that themselves.

5 Respectful but honest

A business mentor should always be respectful and non-judgemental to you. They should, however, have the confidence to tell you what you need to hear.

5 reasons why you should pay a mentor

  1. You can choose a mentor with the experience that best suits your needs.
  2. A paid mentor has a clean, professional relationship with you that is not complicated by any feeling of obligation towards them.
  3. The paid mentor will allocate their time and attention as agreed with you. You are a client not a friend.
  4. Professional mentors maintain client confidentiality which should be clearly defined in their agreement with you.
  5. You most likely will be able to treat any of their fees as a business expense.

If you choose your business mentor wisely, you will likely enjoy a long-term relationship.

Here are some other resources you might find useful:

  • Business Readiness Test
  • How to use Reverse Goal Setting to think bigger.
  • Article on Avoid Procrastination and Improve Your Decision-making
  • Article on Combining Leadership and Managing a Business


Brendan Barrow Co-Host

The Should I Own A Business Podcast

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