Working with a business mentor is a form of time travel.
You get to go back in time to moments when your mentor faced the same hurdles you do now, and learn from how they dealt with the situation.
And you get to go forward in time, using that experience as a guide towards a bigger, brighter future for you and your business.
It’s a relationship that can be vital to the success of a small business.
And it’s one that can now be maintained remotely online through video conferencing.
My Business Mentor
This new advance in the structure of the mentor-protégé relationship is being driven by one of the country’s most established small business support organizations, SCORE.
The national non-profit group has a network of thousands of retired small business owners who provide free guidance to their modern equivalents. Last year, the group helped more than 50,000 small businesses to get started in the marketplace.
Through regular, informal conversations the mentor acts as a sounding board and teacher for the novice business owner. Until now, the relationship has been maintained by in-person meetings, tied to geographical limits of travel time and cost, and the chance that the mentor and the protégé shared a manageable proximity to even get the conversation started. But a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation means SCORE can now offer small business owners guidance from experts across the nation through video conferencing.
For now, remote mentoring through video conferencing is in a trial period to see how it compares with the traditional shared-table experience.
Small Business Video Conferencing
The initial phase of the SCORE video conferencing project is expected to be conducted through basic, free services including Google Hangouts, Skype, and FaceTime.
The appeal is that these services are easy to use and access. After a brief sign-up process, video calls can take place using the built-in video and audio of a laptop, or through consumer grade, inexpensive hardware. And that’s fine, if all you want to do is speak face-to-face, and perhaps share spreadsheets, documents, and calendars.
But there is more that video conferencing can accomplish.
More advanced video conferencing providers offer collaborative screen sharing, video exchange, personalized cloud storage, higher screen resolutions, interoperability with other business tools such as MYOB, video call recording, and remote control of each other’s computers.
These add-ons can help the mentor become a confidant and a partner, a guide who can walk them along step by step.
Remote Mentoring Through Video Conferencing
Now the mentor can take control of their protégé’s computer and make real-time suggestions to tweak an advertisement, or edit a logo for brand appeal.
They could use a shared screen link-up and be guided through the comings and goings of the past month’s accounts to see if they can spot any unnecessary costs or potential savings.
Or they could walk their young apprentice through a whiteboard demonstration of sales techniques, complete with whiteboard scribblings, impromptu flow charts, and potential slogans.
With video conferencing, there are no time limits imposed by travel, no physical constraints that prevent anybody bringing along all their creatives, and no office too small for grand presentations.
It’s all digital, and it’s all shared, so any gold gleaned from these brainstorming sessions can be saved directly to either party’s computer or laptop, complete with taped video and audio, to be called upon again in the future.
SCORE maintains that small businesses that receive the support of a mentor have double the survival rate of those that don’t over the first five years of operation.
Taking that relationship online and adding the cutting edge technology of the modern digital office can take this relationship to the next level.
Entrepreneurs can now go the distance without stepping out the front door.
Image Source: Flickr CC User Ted Eytan