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Small businesses know that mentors are a major driver of growth. Small Business Trends contacted Innovation and Disruption Keynote Speaker Bonin Bough to get some advice SMBs can use. Bough is a renowned marketing executive also known as host of the CNBC show Cleveland Hustlers.

The Value of a Mentor

Bough starts by talking about how mentoring is really a two way street.

“I encourage everyone of any experience level to mentor and seek mentoring because it is in these dialogues where you learn and where ideas are born,” he says.  “I always say, ‘You are only as good as your number 2’.”

Clear Path

He is also clear the path to success isn’t always a straight one. That mentorship gives you the opportunity to learn from other people around you as your business grows. And it also helps you to leave a clear legacy for business leaders that will come after you.

“I truly believe that being a mentor allows you to develop your own perspective while sharing your own experiences with others.”

What to Look for, and Not

There are some things that small businesses need to avoid when looking for a mentor. Number one is any person who isn’t all in.

“The number one thing to avoid in a mentor is someone who is just looking to check a box,” Bough says.  “Mentorship is not about something you have to do to prove you’re a leader.  It’s about wanting to share your knowledge and experience to help someone else.”

Finding mentors who have different perspectives than yours is a good thing. They should have different experience and expertise levels. It should be personal too.

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“You need to step away from titles and hierarchy and work to build a relationship based on personal commonalities and differences.  Mentorship is also just about job skills or training. It is about value-based qualities and workplace characteristics that extend far beyond a role or title. “

General Tips

Finally, Bough supplies some general tips for small business success.

First off, all small businesses should think outside the box. Not letting your size inhibit you is the first tip. There are lots of digital tools that you can use today. Bough cautions they can help you scale, but need to be used wisely.

“Know your consumer so you can speak to them authentically,” he says. “And don’t forget to find your businesses’ point of differentiation and stay true to it.”

Mastercard Contest

Bough recently teamed up with Mastercard, who announced their third  Grow Your Biz Contest, highlighting why small businesses should consider joining in.  The contest seeks to provide small business owners with guidance from experts and a 25K grand prize. It’s designed to help smaller entrepreneurs take their businesses to another level.

“There are three great reasons to join,” he says. “ Exposure, resources and mentorship! Platform’s like Mastercard and Bank of America’s Grow Your Biz contest provide a tremendous opportunity for small business owners to get access to experts.”

Bough also says having an outside set of eyes on your enterprise is another bonus.

“You get objective third party perspectives on your business and how to grow through a national campaign and ongoing mentorship from leading experts.”

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Image: Bonin Bough

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