Every small business usually has something they do
exceptionally well. If they didn't they would have failed early. Because they
do one thing well, that doesn't mean they do everything well.
Businesses have a great many challenges that are outside the
expertise of the founders. What small business owners typically lack is
experience outside of their field, and independent evaluation of the
enterprise. What I have is expertise in both of these fields. I also bring a
creative ability to 'think outside of their box', particularly in marketing.
Right now is a particularly hard time for small businesses
to grow. The previously available sources of money to drive sales through
traditional marketing have largely disappeared. For a small business to grow
rapidly, they need to find a market niche. This niche must be one in which
competition is not significant, and it must be centered on the historical core
excellence of the company. If a niche is populated by competition, then the
only way to grow is to out-market them, which requires financial resources not
There are a number of ways that a small business can
identify its niche: By geography ("within 3 miles of the Big
Chicken"), or by product specialty ("hiking gear for Appalachian trail
hikers"), or service ("15 minute oil change").
To help a company identify its niche, I have to completely
understand the company's product or service so that I can model how to identify
an unserved market for them, and find a strategy for capitalizing on that
market without significant marketing investment.
I have been able to do this for a number of my small
Another major task for the Mentor is dealing with the
'company baggage'. In any small company there are understandable differences of
opinion, capabilities, and goals. Over time the tensions between the principals
in the small company can (and often do) grow to the point that the core
excellence is overwhelmed with petty infighting over stuff that really doesn't
much matter. In such a situation, the Mentor has to be a sort of 'therapist'
for the company, so the principals can refresh their original relationships and
get on with making the enterprise successful.
There is no 'formula' for this aspect of Mentoring, but it
takes patience, ability to listen, and empathy for the positions of the people
involved. Ultimately the core excellence of the company is the guide for how to
resolve the interpersonal issues. "If you want to get rich, you have to
work together" is the common phrase.
I have also found that the non-core parts of the company are
usually a mess. I can help them outsource operations such as payroll,
accounting, and shipping to professionals in these fields.
By: John Alderman