Ever wondered what it’s like to work with a business mentor? We ask Jane Vandemeer, CWC treasurer and board member for her advice.
Jane Vandermeer is a creative & entrepreneurial thinker who doesn’t thrive under red tape or lots of rules. Having worked within the Fashion industry for 30 years, you can definitely say that fashion and small business is in her blood! Her strengths are to problem solve, particularly with a small budget, and to look into a small business to see what areas need help and guidance. Read Jane’s advice on working with a business mentor, and what you can get out of it.
Part of my story
Not sure about you but I often found it challenging to cost up my garments. There was also the difficult task of promoting myself. Whether I was producing a range, making one-off pieces or providing a service (they were harder actually!), there was always the conundrum:
How do you price something when you are not sure how long it might take?
Perspective customers need a price or price range. So many times, I wanted the sale so I guessed the price, hoping that I was close to right. But it can be hard to remain competitive, cover your time, costs & make a profit!
Having a professional mentor can help
A professional mentor will look at your business from a different perspective. It is so hard to do that yourself when you are in the thick of small business.
Life gets in the way. It can be hard to keep yourself accountable. It is easy to push things to ‘next week’, particularly the things you don’t love doing.
One of the benefits is that having regular meetings with a mentor creates accountability and deadlines. It is one big way that can help propel your business forward, and significantly quicker.
Who is mentoring suited to?
You are at the start up stage and not sure where to start. This includes important things like where to focus or spend money first.
You have been in business for a while, feeling like you are working around the clock but can’t seem to get ahead and not sure why.
You are looking at an exit plan but not sure how to do that
You are passionate about so many things
Those who are willing to take advise & learn
Those who are brave to grow
Many creatives’ are multi-dimensional but this can be overwhelming. Then comes paralysis…so you do nothing! A mentor can keep you going.
Tips when selecting your mentor
I often describe selecting a mentor as like selecting a councillor. Working one-on-one with a mentor is such a personal experience. If you are going to invest in a mentor, you need to connect and align with the right person.
A good place to start is to spend time at an initial meeting to ‘get a feel’ about a perspective mentor before diving in. If after the first meeting you don’t think you’re the right fit, that’s totally ok. Be upfront - they might also be able to recommend someone who is.
Do you want your perspective mentor to be someone you admire?
Are they someone who has achieved or brings experience within the areas you need help & support?
Considerations for offerings/packages
In the initial meeting together, whether that is online, on the phone or in person, ask lots of questions. Make sure you are both clear on things like fees and what the mentoring service involves.
Mentors might have different fee structures depending on the type of service you require. Here are some examples:
An hourly rate. This is good for casual mentoring where something is project/problem based.
A program with a set number of modules. This type of structure gives perspective clients an idea of prices up front, so there are no surprises.
Some areas to consider:
Frequency of meetings
Does it include support such as emails, resources, phone calls outside of meetings?
Are there certain days you can communicate?
How is the payment system structured?
Many do offer payment plans. This is often great for cash flow for small businesses.
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity if you are not sure and get everything in writing.
It is good to set some expectations between yourself and your mentor too. Do you want someone to ‘teach you’ how to do various tasks/aspects of your business? Or do you want someone to ‘do it for you’?
Different mentors will have different approaches. For me, I have always come from the space of teaching & sharing knowledge, so that you are empowered to know, understand & grow. Everyone works in their particular way and there will be a mentor which will suit your style.
Here is an example of what a mentor does….
A beautiful client of mine had been in business for over 5 years (so not a start up). She was working very hard yet not making enough at the end of each month.
After spending the time to understand her costs and sales. I discovered that she was only making 2% profit margin on many of her services!
We worked on a solution which gave her four options/strategies to increase profit within those existing services. The important thing was that they were all practical & easy to implement.
Her services were back up to 75-90% profit margin and best of all, it didn’t require that business owner to work any harder.
A final note…
Different ideas can provide a different perspective to a business. Professional assistance can help set up ways to attract prospective clients who happily and joyfully pay for your beautiful and considered work!