Business: Do you need a helping hand?

Business owner and beauty educator, Marie-Louise Coster considers the importance of a Business Mentor.

Marie-Louise CosterThere seems to be a trendy new buzz word on the block - Business Mentor. It may just be me but everyone seems to be offering their services as a mentor, and in some cases I fear it is going to become like training...every man and his dog are doing it because, as they say, those who can't, teach, so maybe those who can't run a business are going to start telling others how to do it? 

There is no doubt that a business mentor is of great value and a real asset to you and your business. If you look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs, the Steve Jobs and Richard Branson's of the world, they all had business mentors, I wonder how successful they would have been without one? But to accept that you need help, for some, does not come easily, with many considering it a sign of failure, when in fact the opposite is true. To ask for, and accept, help shows great strength of character, and if getting help means you achieve your dreams surely that's a win-win all round?

Many therapists long to have their own business, for some it is the ultimate achievement, but in truth they don't consider all the aspects of owning and running that business. It's very easy to get all caught up in the bits that are fun - the choosing decor, choosing brands, generally overspending on ‘stuff' that isn't essential but that you like the look of, choosing a name (the one thing that people seem to start with!) etc. but those things, whilst essential, are not the crux of the business, your business plan is. 

What are your targets? How will you grow the business? What are your forecasts? What monetary value do you need to take to cover costs and pay yourself a wage? What is the ultimate goal? What is the one year, three year, five plan? What is your exit plan? 

You can't just wing it, although many do! I politely refer to these as busy fools.

Business mentor
Some business mentors hold workshops which may be more financially viable to you than employing their services alone.
Starting and running a business is expensive, especially in the world we live in. There are many added pressures and strains upon business owners, whether you employ people or not, and many get so focused on filling their column and making money that day that they lose sight of the bigger picture.  

Spend money to make money

As a business owner you are everything. A large corporation will have a finance team, a marketing team, a HR team, a team to deal solely with social media; they will have designated people in charge of stock control, maintenance etc. As a small business owner, you are all those things and more, often leaving little time to focus on the business until it is too late.

Whilst I appreciate it is another expense, you need to spend money to make money, so what can a Business Mentor do for you? 

In a nutshell a Business Mentor is basically someone who has been where you are. They will have more entrepreneurial skills and experience than you do, and they will use this knowledge to guide you through decision making and help you to grow your business and increase your turnover.  

Of course, there will be a charge for this service, everyone has to make a living, so do your research, look at the experience and background of the mentor. You obviously want someone who is in the beauty industry and has had extensive experience across the industry as a whole. Look at any testimonials, speak to others who have used a mentor, ask for recommendations. 

However, I see many posts on a daily basis of people asking on industry Facebook groups about business mentors and streams of people come forward offering their services. They are generally all in the industry, but - as well you know - our industry is full of ‘experts' who did a short course and have been doing the job for five minutes! This is why you must do extensive research before you commit to anyone. You need to spend your money wisely; you don't have an endless pot of money and you want the money you do spend provide you with a return.  

Be wary of anyone who makes wild claims like they can treble your turnover over night or can fill your appointment book without ever offering a promotion. I'm suspicious of people who make such claims without having looked at your business and finances.

Business Mentor
A Business Mentor will have more entrepreneurial skills and experience than you, and will use this knowledge to guide you through decision making.
Not everyone can afford a Business Mentor, does that mean their business is destined to fail? Absolutely not!

If you can't afford a Business Mentor, there are other ways that you could get support for your business. You could:

* Join a business networking group. You will make lots of useful contacts and learn from others. You may even pick up some new clients!

* Utilise Facebook. There are lots of business support groups which will provide you with tips, advice and create a sounding board for you to bounce ideas off other therapists.

* Build a relationship with a more experienced industry professional that is happy to help and advise you.

* Buy a book! There are lots of books available, and whilst not specific to your individual business, they will still be a valuable resource.

* Attend Trade Shows. Such a valuable tool in more ways than one! The seminars at annual trade shows are a great way of hearing first-hand from some very experienced business people and gaining some very useful information, as well as being inspired.

* Workshops. Some business mentors often do one off workshops which may be more financially viable to you. There will be a group of people there so the price is often lower than a one-to-one service, plus you hear from other salon owners, and therapists, in your position.

* Visit your local bank. Whilst not specifically in the beauty industry, your bank will have a designated business manager who will be able to help you with financial matters, targets and forecasting.

* Be your own mentor. Sometimes I think we spend so much time in our business that we forget why we started it, the plans we had for it and what drove us to do it in the first place.  It's important to take time out from your business, even if it's just an hour a week, to look at it from a different angle and look at what is working, what needs work, how the business is growing and are you achieving the original dream? Maybe the original dream changed, but whatever the overall goal, are you on target to achieve what you want and need to? If it's not, go back to the start - why did you start the business? Look at your original targets, are you achieving them? If you didn't set financial targets set some now, start with what you need to take just to run the business, add what you want to earn, work out the hours it takes to cover all of this, what hours are left? Where will the profit come from? Take some time to visit other salons to see what they are doing and get ideas for your business.

A Business Mentor is a valuable resource and it is great to have that constant support to speak to, run ideas past and give you the focus you need to achieve your goals. Every journey is more fun if you have some company along the way (says the woman who is often travelling at silly o'clock alone!).

Marie-Louise Coster is a Session Tech, Beauty Therapist, Trainer and Business Consultant, with over 20 years' experience in the industry. All About Mi Beauty & Holistic Training School is ABT-accredited.