As a new business owner there are going to be days when you seem to be making all the right decisions, and others where you would appreciate some advice.

This is where networks and mentors can ease the feeling of "going it alone" that business ownership sometimes creates. Mentors help you strategize solutions to common business problems and share their hard lessons learned so that you don't have to make the same ones!

You will be expected to know it all when you run your own business, even though you don't. You simply cannot be an expert in everything, so close the gaps in your knowledge through paid advisors, mentors, industry association groups, your local Chambers of Commerce/Boards of Trade.

Don't confuse mentoring with free professional advice. For example, don't ask a marketing consultant to help you build your website, but rather ask about tips and tricks for hiring a web designer.

Don't be afraid to ask. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to help. Many mentors want to give back or make a contribution to their industry or community, or to help a person they respect.

Examples of Networks and Mentors

Industry associations - Research how to belong to your industry or professional association. Visit their websites, attend membership meetings, get involved and stay current on trends, professional upgrading and direct experience to be shared (or worth sharing).

Business & Financial advisors - Having a financial advisor that has specialized knowledge in your business area is a most important area. You will have to brush up in this area so that you can accurately estimate costs and revenues, manage purchasing and inventory, payment and collections, budgeting and tracking. Brush up on business finance essentials at your local college.

Marketing groups - It is not uncommon for competitors or complementary service businesses to join in and share advertising space, attend trade shows together or joint market to key clients. If you are specialized service consultant or provider, consider who might be a respected joint business partner.


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