This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Business Mentor
As a SCORE Counselor I have conducted more than 2,000 face to face counseling sessions. Through these experiences I have come away with a number of suggestions & observations. Successful people rarely reach the top without a lot of help along the way. The skill to ask for help and the willingness to accept suggestions is a key quality that stands out by those who are driven to succeed.
The function of your mentor is to give advice and share their wisdom. What problem(s) you may be facing for the first time your mentor may have experienced a very similar or same challenge in their career. They are able to help you to see the overall picture and solutions. Your mentor doesn’t need to have experience in your industry or be up on the latest trends and technology, there are other sources for that. In seeking counseling your goal should be help and direction in seeing the overall picture of what you are faced with and possible ideas and answers.
Steps for Success:
1. Be 10 minutes early for your appointment and prepared.
2. Google some of your questions and research your business ideas.
3. Keep in mind there is a big difference between a dream and reality.
4. Leave your ego in the waiting room. Never become defensive-sometimes the truth may hurt, but wouldn’t you rather hear it before you make a big investment?
5. Be brief but complete with your background, skills & expectations of counseling.
6. Learn to tell your story, clearly and to the point. Be sure to include any important information, i.e.: “the lease expires in two months, or I have two other partners!”
7. Be sure to clearly state your goals and what you would like the counseling session to help you with.
8. Know your mentors background or ask them for a brief resume review. This then provides a solid understanding of their opinions and knowledge.
9. Keep in mind your mentor is not a “Mind Reader”. They certainly can’t see the whole puzzle if you only give them some of the pieces and no picture.
10. Be prepared, have a list of questions that you want to ask. Be willing to accept other answers then what you expected or hoped for.
11. Be logical, do you really expect a bank to loan you money if you have poor credit, no assets or no business experience?
12. Be mindful of the time. Normally counseling sessions are for a period of time. If you waste time in your story, meaningless questions or small talk you will not have enough time to discuss your challenges.
13. Be willing to listen, the only time counseling becomes effective is when you are receiving input.
14. Take notes during your counseling session.
15. Be sure that you summarize what you have learned and clarify what the next step is.
Too many times in a counseling session the client, not hearing what they anticipated will try to defend their position. This is an effective way to force your mentor to offer no further options as it just creates arguments and tension. Over the years in business I asked for help 100’s of times. I learned to listen to the information and ask logical questions even if the answers did not agree with my beliefs or research. I then took all of the information I received and apply what made sense for me in my business situation.
It is critical to remember that a SCORE Counselor is doing this for FREE and they have absolutely nothing to gain by giving you certain information or seeing you multiple times. ‘For- Pay’ Mentors/Counselors and Life Coaches make their living by seeing clients, needless to say the more appointments they schedule the more fees they generate. So the smarter ‘For- Pay’ counselors give you just enough information to get you to return for your next paying appointment.
Your hour session with a SCORE Counselor could easily be an experience that you would pay $500+ per hour in the private sector. So be sure to get the most out of it.