Costco offers a variety of professional
services to help small businesses. For
more information, go to Costco.ca and
click on “Services.”
BY HARVEY MEYER
CEO GEOFFREY DESMOULIN often un-leashes a secret weapon to address vexing
questions for his small ;rm: his mentor, a
business consultant who has confronted
countless challenges during his own
decades-long career. This mentor not only
aids Desmoulin on specific business-development strategies for GTD Engineering, which examines injuries for
litigation support and research purposes,
but, perhaps as important, also offers a
fresh, con;dence-boosting perspective.
“A mentor can literally help make or
break a business,” contends Desmoulin, a
Costco member, who instituted a mentoring program for his ;;-employee Vancouver ;rm in ;;;;.
As many small businesses have found
out, mentors can yield competitive advantages, says Anita Ramachandran, director
of MicroMentor ( micromentor.org). A
program of Portland, Oregon–based non-pro;t Mercy Corps, MicroMentor facilitates more than ;;,;;; free online
connections annually between small-business mentees and volunteer business
mentors. A yearly MicroMentor survey
consistently reveals that mentees’ companies that embrace mentoring are demonstrably better o;.
“There is de;nitely a signi;cant correlation between businesses that receive
mentoring and their survival rate, revenue growth and job creation,” Ramachandran tells The Connection.
Finding a match
Business mentoring has proved fruitful for eons, but it’s now easier because of
online services that enable local, national
and even global matches. At Micro Mentor,
algorithms and other factors help connect
mentees who complete business pro;les
with suitable mentors. Some mentees
pursue two or more MicroMentor-facili-tated mentors, e;ectively producing a virtual advisory board.
More research and best-practices
information is available on the value of
mentoring as attitudes about the relationship between mentor and mentee evolve.
Costco member Ramachandran hopes to
shatter notions that mentoring requires a
years-long commitment between two parties. At MicroMentor, the average mentee
communicates with a mentor for a total of
about ;; hours, often seeking advice
online, by phone or in person on speci;c
“There are no rules or de;nitions as to
what mentoring is. Mentoring can take
many forms, and it can be accessible to
anybody within a company,” she says.
Ramachandran says MicroMentor
surveys indicate the most popular topics
involve strategy, marketing, ;nance and
business development. But personal
issues—for instance, how much time you
allot for family or nonbusiness matters—
often naturally arise.
At Ervin & Smith, an Omaha,
Nebraska, digital marketing agency and
Costco Business member, mentoring is
firmly entrenched. It occurs informally
and formally with all ;; employees, in
programs such as Mentorship Meetings,
Issues Management Mentoring, Lunch
with a Leader and monthly one-on-ones
with managers and a professional coach.
Heidi Mausbach, the ;rm’s president
and CEO, and GTD’s Desmoulin witness
multiple benefits with their mentoring
programs. Among them:
Improved recruiting and retention.
Mausbach launched mentoring ;; years
ago, in part to boost retention, a major
consideration in the high-turnover marketing industry. She says the company’s
mentoring programs significantly contribute to better recruiting and retention.
Increased employee engagement.
Mentoring arrangements may spark
appreciative workers to put extra time
and effort into their jobs. Whether
she’s a mentor or mentee, Megan Belt,
public relations director at Ervin & Smith,
says she’s more engaged, happier and
MENTORING AT WORK
BEFORE LAUNCHING A mentoring program for your small business, get educated about what mentoring entails and
what you want to accomplish with it,
advises David Shapiro, president and CEO
of MENTOR, a non-profit offering
resources on mentoring.
As with other business issues, examine best practices, what to seek in mentors and expected roles for mentors and
mentees. Think through whether you’d be
more comfortable with in-house mentoring, connecting with outside parties or
some combination of both.
It should be clear from the outset
that mentoring is a priority and a serious
enterprise. That means buy-in from top
executives, says Shapiro. “The most effective mentoring programs have senior
leadership walking the walk and doing
mentoring as well,” he says.
Shapiro suggests that a designated
person communicate about company
mentoring opportunities and monitor their
effectiveness. Without proper oversight, a
program could dissolve. He also says
small firms should be realistic about
expectations for mentoring.
“People sometimes make really small
commitments and expect really great
results,” he says. As with most things, you
get out of it what you put into it.—HM
Teaming up can yield
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