Ten Tips for Becoming the Perfect Business Mentor

Richard Branson


There’s a decline in the number of businesses starting up in the United States as we see the economy improving. This means less people are starting businesses out of necessity, and instead people are doing so out of passion and because they see an opportunity in the market…

While starting a business out of passion rather than necessity sets one up for success initially, the fact remains that many entrepreneurs lack the basic business or leadership skills that are necessary to maintain or grow a business. We see new businesses fail all the time, and the majority of the time it’s due to incompetency.

Programmes like The Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship are focused on developing the next generation of entrepreneurs, but what can we individually do to help? You may know someone who is interested in starting their own business or embodies the entrepreneurial spirit – perhaps an intern or employee at your company, your neighbour, maybe even your child. Here are some suggestions on how to work with the next generation to set them up for success as a business owner.

1. Communication – Being able to communicate effectively will help build relationships, problem solve, and convey what a business is and why consumers need whatever is being sold. Unfortunately many young people are lacking at face-to-face interactions because of social media and text messages. Successful businesses require that people actually speak to one another.

Start with the importance of a professional appearance and introductions (eye contact, hand shake) and the importance of the elevator speech. As an entrepreneur, they’ll likely have to pitch their business and it’s got to be on point in order to compete.

2. Leadership – Look for opportunities to put them in charge. The bottom line is that an entrepreneur is their own boss, and might eventually be the manager of other people. They need have experience taking ownership of things and making decisions.

3. Goal setting – Have a conversation to understand what the individual aspires to be. Jot down several goals and have them pick the one that makes the most sense to be their main focus. Figure out what steps are necessary to accomplish this goal and encourage them to start taking action on those steps immediately. Remember, goals can be altered and now’s the perfect time to lay some groundwork for a future business.

4. Recognise opportunities – Teaching future entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities and take action on them will directly contribute to their level of future success. Encourage young people to point out small problems or setbacks in their lives or at work. and brainstorm solutions on how to resolve their troubles. This will teach them to focus on creating positive solutions, instead of focusing on the problem itself.

5. Failure – we’re often taught that failure is unacceptable. When it comes to entrepreneurship, failure can be a positive thing if there is a lesson learned. Budding entrepreneurs need to understand that at some point, something is not going to go their way – it’s part of owning a business.

It’s important to be resilient and learn from the situation so they grow as an individual and make better business decisions in the future.

6. Giving back – Every entrepreneur hopes to be successful one day. Understanding the importance of giving back will help the next generation stay humble during periods of success and it will teach them that a successful business provides benefits to more than just its owner.

7. Independence – Having the freedom to make your own decisions is often considered to be one of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurism. The key to independence is confidence. In many cases confidence must be learned. In the case of a future entrepreneur, they’re going to learn to believe in their own abilities from acting on challenges, seeing the results, and being praised and respected by others.

8. Financial literacy – This is one area where entrepreneurs really struggle. It’s one thing to manage your own bank account, but what about managing the money coming in and out of a business? At work, let an aspiring entrepreneur co-own the department’s budget. It’s also a good idea to prep them for the fact that they will likely need help in this area; an accountant can serve as an advisor on where a business’s money is going vs. where it should be going.

9. Selling – This one ability will last a lifetime because it is applied to all types of businesses and careers. From selling products and services to customers, to raising capital from investors, this skill is vital to the success of any business. If you are trying to teach your child about entrepreneurship, have them sell something (think lemonade stand); they can price the item themselves, practice convincing people to purchase, and handle transactions. This is also a good lesson in customer service.

10. Technology – You might think young people know everything about technology. Sure, they know all about every social media tool and work any type of gadget, but do they know about the applications that can help them succeed as a business owner? Introduce them to accounting solutions, payment services, and task and project management applications. These are the tools that can really help an entrepreneur stay compliant, organized, and prepped for success.

We all have a responsibility to support the next generation of business owners. What are you going to do to build confidence and entrepreneurial spirit in tomorrow’s leaders?

This piece by Richard Branson was first published on Virgin Entrepreneur