This past August, I talked about individuals being in business for themselves, whether they planned this entrepreneurial venture or were self-employed in lieu of being unemployed. I want to continue the topic with some additional comments and suggestions because small entrepreneurial ventures (under four people) make up approximately 60% of the companies in business today, and planning and communication are critical to a company’s success.

After your company is up and operating, cashflow becomes a concern either because you started with no contracts and/or a backlog of work from past clients, or you have work and you anxiously await payments from the invoices you sent your clients. While this is going on, you will have already accrued expenses such as the cost for a business phone, office supplies, etc. Ideally, prior to setting out on this new venture you should have already established a financial plan to get you through those early months of work. If not, a financial strategy is needed to accommodate the cost of doing business and the usual time-lag between invoicing and receipt of payment.

In regards to communication, there will probably be times at the start when you may begin to doubt yourself and question whether this was a good idea or not. Seldom do startup firms consider acquiring a business mentor to guide them through the early days of the business, as well or maintaining this mentoring resource in the years to come. Why a business mentor? Well, this individual will have more business experience than you. Sure you may be a great engineer or mechanical contractor but how knowledgeable are you about managing and marketing a company? A business mentor will be able to assist you in navigating your way through these issues on a regular basis.

I was first introduced to this concept years ago when the president of a construction company where I worked had a business mentor. This mentor was at least 10 years older than the boss and had a diverse and long list of business skills that complemented the contractor-boss. On a monthly basis, he would show up in the office and they would meet behind closes doors for a couple of hours. I never asked the company president who this person was, but the administrative assistant told me about this person, and I thought what a great idea it was; when you are the boss, there is no one for you to ask the questions that others in your company most likely don’t have the answers to, based on their own experience of never being in the position of owner of a company.

What you may know about business management and development of the company in the past probably falls into the category of “dabbling in it.” When you were employed, your paycheck wasn’t based on being successful as the boss. Sure, back then, running a business could routinely appear easy because hindsight is always 20/20, but long before you had the answers to the questions, your boss had already made the decisions, which may or may not have worked out as planned. Now you are the “company of one” and need to implement a strategic and tactical business plan and to monitor, measure, and benchmark the results in such things as new sales, revenue, and client retention.

Business mentors may not charge for their services because they want to give back to the industry or they simply enjoy teaching others, but other mentors may charge a nominal fee, which can be money well spent in the long run. Another form of mentoring is to regularly listen to business tapes in which the speaker shares his or her experience in such areas as writing a vision and mission statement, both verbal and written communication skills, time management, and financial planning. The good part of purchasing audio books on management is that you can listen to them over and over again and as needed. There are a select few audio books that I will listen to at least once a year, and I’ve done so for more than 15 years as a refresher course because some things just don’t change, such as time management and goal setting. Sure, there are enhancements to these topics based on the use of new technology like iPods, iPads, cell phones, etc., that requires a continuous education process via new audio recordings on the same topics.

And finally, something to think about when considering a business mentor is to make sure that this individual has nothing to sell you, such as a specific product or service. The mentor needs to be an adviser with the years of successful experience that you, as the company-of-one owner, don’t possess. ES