Editor’s Note: The benefits of having a mentor

July 8, 2016 -  By

palmieri“Get a mentor” seems like a no-brainer piece of advice, right? Apparently it’s not. As I explain in this month’s cover story, research shows only 8 percent of small business owners say they have a mentor.

I suppose the number is so low due to the age-old problem of small business people, landscape professionals included, working in their business instead of on their business.

Plus, entrepreneurs typically have an independent streak. The kind of person who’s going to forge his own path may not be one to pull over and ask for directions. But what if doing so could get you to your destination a little faster?

In the landscape industry, there’s little excuse not to have a mentor or a group of supporters you can turn to.

Becky Garber, director of membership for the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado said it best when I interviewed her about the organization’s Peer-to-Peer Program, which serves as a sort of matchmaker for mentees and mentors.

“I’ve been involved in other industries and other associations,” she says. “One of the things I find remarkable about the landscape industry is that while companies are sometimes competitors, there’s still an underlying openness that I don’t think typifies other industries. That’s why we can always find a mentor. It’s not a hard sell.”

Scott Burk, owner of Scott’s Landscaping in Centre Hall, Pa., expresses a similar sentiment. He has mentored many young landscape pros he’s met teaching courses at both Penn State and Penn College of Technology.

“This industry is so welcoming,” Burk says. “Most contractors are willing to help out. It may not be the competition you’re bidding against, but you can find somebody to help outside your area.”

Without a mentor (or a few of them), he points out, many companies could be out of business before they understand how to be both a good landscaper and a good business person.

Those seeking a mentor should look outside the industry, too. It’s 2016, so of course there are online options. MicroMentor is one of many to check out.

There are also many community resources. You may find a mentor within the local chamber of commerce—and don’t ignore nonprofit groups designed to help business owners, like SCORE Association, previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or small business development centers. The latter are hosted by universities, colleges and state economic development agencies, and they’re funded in part by Congress through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are nearly a thousand service centers that provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training. If you need some help, it’s another no-brainer.

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About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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