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Who has your back? Start and grow your consulting business

Updated: Nov 11, 2021




It's really good to be guided and coached by someone who knows the ropes and has your back!


What is a mentor?

The idea of a mentor goes back to ancient Greece, though mentoring is probably as old as humankind.


In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus leaves his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus to sail off to fight in the Trojan War. He left Mentor, who was an old man at the time, in charge of his son. He was a wise and trusted advisor.


In the Odyssey, Athena, the Greek goddess associated with wisdom, handicraft and warfare, also took the form of Mentor to guide and protect Telemachus. So, while the concept is named after Mentor, in the Odyssey, it incorporates both the male and female aspects of a mentor.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mentor as:


1 capitalized: a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus 2a: a trusted counselor or guide

//a mentor who, because he is detached and disinterested, can hold up a mirror to us— P. W. Keve

2 b: tutor, coach

//The student sought a mentor in chemistry.

What are the qualities of a good mentor?

As one of my mentors said to me, "you know mentors by their children." By this he meant that great mentors guide you and train you even after you become independent and move on.


In my own career, I saw this in research laboratories. Some chiefs not only provided constant guidance and advice aimed at improving their trainees, while taking into account their strengths and weaknesses, they also found opportunities for them. After they left the laboratory, they would stay in touch and collaborate with them on publications and continue to create opportunities for them.


Some laboratory chiefs were ruthless. Trainees entering the laboratory were merely fodder for them. They were not there to be mentored and trained. They were on their own and if they did not independently produce a substantial stream of publications or publish in top journals, they were out after two years. When the trainees left, some ultimately did well, but their former chiefs were not included in their publications. This seems to me as very wasteful. I am aware of people who felt like failures after such experiences but went on to pursue further training with great mentors and had stellar careers.

A great mentor:

  • has your back.

  • knows your strengths and weaknesses

  • helps you build on your strengths and deal better with your weaknesses

  • works with you to bring out your best

  • is a role model

  • is accomplished in the area - an expert and a leader

  • knows the steps you need to take and guides you

  • finds opportunities for you to grow

Are you a good person to mentor?

Among people that I have mentored, the ones that are enthusiastic, work hard, seek out feedback and try hard to benefit from it, and look for opportunities to be helpful are the people that are pleasant and rewarding to guide and train.


If a mentor is very accomplished or well-known, it is all the more important to try to learn whatever you can from them. People who have truly mastered an area usually know all the pitfalls and the best ways to get ahead.


If your mentor is very busy with many competing demands, you will get much more out of your interactions if you are proactive and strive to learn as much as you can. It is difficult to mentor people who are passive, do not take advice, and do not use their time constructively. It is also not very rewarding.


Think about what is in it for the mentor, too.


How to find a mentor?

This depends on what type of mentor you are looking for. Ideally, you should look for a person who is highly accomplished in your chosen area of consulting. For example if you are in business management, you would look for someone who is an expert in that area. If you know such a person, and they are willing or interested in mentoring you, it is a good start.


As you make the transition to consulting, it may be helpful to work with multiple mentors. People who can help you with the necessary steps toward establishing your business - the registration, the financial aspects, marketing, finding clients, will be extremely valuable.


While it is good to work with people you already know, you can also find mentors online in your area of consulting that may offer mentoring for a fee. If they are good mentors and you are seeing results, you can pursue this as far as necessary or useful.


The Small Business Administration has considerable information on how to start a business and find support for establishing yourself. They are partner with SCORE that has a website where you can look for mentors that might best match what you are seeking.


If you currently an employee, you should take full advantage of good mentors, seek feedback, take any relevant courses, and gain the best experience you can to be the best employee possible. If you should decide to go into consulting in the future, being really good at what you do is very important.


What are your thoughts?

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