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Mentoring is an invaluable opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee.

For the mentor, it is an opportunity to pay forward for help received in the past, to build sustainable connections, and to participate in the growth of an individual.

Mentoring for small business owners and entrepreneurs is the business world's answer to the apprentice system for trades. While there are no set standards that must be met, or described skill sets to be tested, the business mentor provides insight on an ever-changing scope of challenges and issues. An issue with sales one week can be replaced with an inventory issue the next and an HR issue after that.

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A mentor is there to provide expertise and experiences. The experiences include not only the successes, but the failures as well. As the failures are identified and discussed, the mentee comes to realize a person can't always make the correct decision, but that the application of lessons learned are part of the growth process and will lead to better and stronger decisions. Mentors remove the personal doubt, allowing failures to be isolated and examined, and learning applied, while others may chastise the mentee for bad judgment or careless decision making.

Mentors work for success.

The mentor is the shoulder to cry on, the cheerleader, and the kick-in-the-pants when needed (sometimes all at the same time). In addition, the mentor is a Rolodex, a door opener and a cup of coffee after one of those nasty 3a.m. wake-ups when a mentee says: "Now what do I do?"

As a teacher and a business professional, mentoring falls into my mix of supports for students, and for budding entrepreneurs of all ages. Many relationships develop casually with one answered question turning into another and another, and before you know it you're engaged in an exciting venture with a vested interest in its success.

In other cases, the relationship is sought specifically with a very clear ask - will you mentor me?

Mentoring is a very valuable experience for both parties - both learn, both grow and both forge ties that are sustained over a long period of time. The rewards are very tangible.

Special to the Globe and Mail

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Mark Simpson is the founder and co-ordinator of The Institute of Entrepreneurship and Community Innovation. He will be appearing at re:Vision2010's Earth Hour Event at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on March 27. For more information visit the re:Vision2010 website .

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