This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
Mentors are one of the most valuable resources for an entrepreneur. As creators of jobs, small business owners are the engines of our economies and the cornerstones of our communities, so what better way to leverage your expertise as business leader than to help an entrepreneur succeed?
Taking the entrepreneurial plunge is not a decision that should be made lightly. It's no secret that getting your business off the ground – and keeping it there – takes a significant amount of work. However, Intuit Canada's newest study reveals what entrepreneurs believe is the upside of small business ownership.
While long hours, early mornings and weekends spent working can be challenging, life is good overall for Canada's entrepreneurs. They're happier, have greater independence and flexibility, and feel better about their financial futures since launching their businesses.
If you've been approached by an entrepreneur to be their mentor, it's important to understand their day-to-day realities and the unique challenges they face. Here are three tips to help set entrepreneurs up for success.
Understand why they do what they do
You might be surprised to learn that Canadian entrepreneurs aren't in it for the money. Only 13 per cent of small business owners started out to increase their incomes. Why, then, do they take the leap? It's often the desire to have greater control over their professional lives.
One third (33 per cent) of Canadian entrepreneurs started their own businesses because they wanted to be their own bosses. While running a business is not without its significant challenges, the experience tends to live up to expectations. Four in five small business owners report that they are happier now than when they worked for someone else, and only 17 per cent would ever consider working for someone else again.
Help resolve the issues keeping them up at night
Just because entrepreneurs aren't in it for the money doesn't mean small business ownership doesn't pay off. Intuit's research revealed that nearly half (45 per cent) of small business owners surveyed feel better about their financial futures since starting out.
However, not all startups are created equally; it isn't enough to be passionate about an idea written on the back of a napkin and entrepreneurs need capital to continue pursuing their passions. Cash flow remains the number-one concern keeping them up at night.
It's vital that entrepreneurs take the time to map out their business and create a road map for how they're going to achieve their goals. This can be the difference between success and failure. I'm a believer in the power of lean business planning, and whether your mentee is just starting out or they have already jumped the gun, it's never too late for entrepreneurs to put a plan in place.
Developing a clear picture of their finances is another important step to for entrepreneurs to feel secure about their business' future. Financial management tools, like QuickBooks Online and its ecosystem of products and services, can help entrepreneurs save time, get paid faster, and identify opportunities for growth.
Tap into a network of experts to help their business thrive
Good advice is a crucial component of long-term success, especially when it comes to money. Choosing a mentor is an important first step, but it's vital that entrepreneurs build a support system of trusted advisers to provide guidance for growth.
It's impossible for one person to do it all, especially when just starting out, so teamwork and networking are a necessity. While you might be able to share invaluable insight into running an organization or building a team, connecting entrepreneurs with experts who can help them manage other areas of their ventures can give them a 360-degree perspective on running a successful business.
For instance, working with an accounting professional can give entrepreneurs a better understanding of their financial situation and arm them with the information they need to secure vital funding. Further, organizations like Startup Canada and Ryerson University's DMZ can provide access to the education, tools and resources they need to thrive.
Mentoring an entrepreneur is about so much more than sharing the wisdom you've gained over the course of your career: you're lending your expertise to help someone pursue their passion and helping to shape the Canadian economy in the process. Don't let that intimidate you, though.
Remember, when guiding someone through the startup process, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Offering up advice that's tried and true, like leveraging existing financial management tools and tapping into the expertise of others, can set small business owners up for long-term success. Equally as important, it will free up valuable time so they can focus on what they love most about running a business.
Jeff Cates is president, Intuit Canada