When we start out in business, we need someone with experience to help us find the right path.

We all need a mentor.

Business coaches can be expensive. What if you can’t afford one?

There are business people out there who have offered their time free of charge to help others up the first steps of the ladder.

A mentor will provide you with impartial advice, help increase your confidence, be a sounding board for your ideas, and provide inspiration to you. They’re successful and have been where you are now.

Here’s our guide to finding the right mentor for you:

  1. Look for your own skills gaps and seek a mentor who will complement them – Most of us come to a business with a skill-set. Some of us are ace marketers, while others are expert in the financial side of business. A mentor will be able to help you with areas of the business you’re less confident in. If you’re all about the numbers, find a mentor who will help you create a marketing plan, for example.
  2. You’ll still be making the decisions, so find someone you’re comfortable talking with peer-to-peer – A mentor isn’t a boss or a partner. They can offer experience and advice, but you will still be making the decisions. So find someone you respect but who you can talk to as a peer.
  3. Decide on your goals and how long you want the mentoring to continue – You’ll need to be clear about what you want to achieve, so that you and the mentor can assess whether the relationship is working. Setting a timeframe also helps to focus your mind on your goals.
  4. Find someone who has a track record as a mentor – If a mentor has been involved with a scheme overseen by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI), that’s usually a good sign. SFEDI is a government-established, not-for-profit body tasked by driving up standards for business enterprise and business support.

Where to find a mentor:

Find free advice on mentorsme.co.uk

This service has 15,000 mentors and is operated by the Business Finance Taskforce, set up y the British Bankers Association. The taskforce is made up of HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays and Santander.

You can search for mentors by area and by the life stage of your business.

The portal brings together a number of mentoring organisations’ services in one place, and has code of conduct which ensures client confidentiality.

Mentors are assessed by SFEDI, and their organisations have to show they have experience of delivering a good quality of mentoring in the past.

Read how one mentor decided to join the programme.

Find a mentor where you are.

See what the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs could do for you

The Institute offers free membership to start-ups. The aim is to get quality help to businesses as early as possible.

The Institute has 30,000 members and has a network of academies which provide enterprise-related training, help and support. It runs Meet a Mentor events.

Find out more here.

Talk to Business Wales

If you register with Business Wales, they will help match you with a suitable mentor if you’re establishing or growing your business.

See what the organisation has to offer.

If you’re feeling that you’re losing focus or could do with some advice for your business then finding a mentor should be a priority. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs have mentors that they turn to when they’re struggling with parts of their business or life so perhaps it’s time to look for your own mentor?