Many of the most recognizable names in the business world credit their success to the guidance of a mentor early in their career. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet all acknowledge their mentors (Don Graham, Ed Roberts, and Benjamin Graham, respectively) for their success in the business and tech industries. Mentorship continues to be a valuable asset to up-and-coming professionals today.

For beginning buyers dealing with procurement, mentorship can be particularly helpful. When done correctly, this type of relationship can lead to increased productivity, increased employee retention, proactive management, and more.

Just How Useful is Mentorship in Business?
Per San Diego's The Scoop, a survey conducted by the UPS Store found that 88 percent of small business owners believe having a mentor to be invaluable. In addition, more than two thirds of these small business owners had a mentor (whom they remain in contact with) prior to opening their business.

The success of the mentor/mentee relationship in small business is likely due to mentors providing knowledge, encouragement, and experience; ultimately, all these intangibles result in a tangible impact on profit margin. In fact, the same report found that small business owners that receive mentoring are more likely to report higher revenues and business growth (with at least three hours of mentoring); more likely to stay in business for at least five years (70 percent that receive mentoring stay in business at this long); and 20 percent more likely to experience growth that those without mentoring do without. 

The Qualities of a Good Mentoring Relationship
Whether mentorship is involved in procurement or sales, accounting or marketing, there are certain qualities that are conducive to a good mentoring relationship.

According to BusinessWeek, some of these qualities include:
•    Mentors and mentees must each be dedicated to skill building.
•    Mentor/mentee relationships must not be built on ulterior motives (such as seeking a promotion or political leeway).
•    Mentoring must be conducted within limits (i.e., mentors should refrain from making promises they may not be able to keep).
•    Mentors should never tell mentees what their goals are; rather, they should ask mentees what they want their goals to be.

While mentoring is invaluable, the success of a mentor/mentee relationship also depends on the knowledge and skills the mentor brings to the mentee's industry. Relevance is often key here. A mentee who specializes in purchasing, for instance, might not find a ton of success with a mentor who specializes in distribution. For this reason, it's important to not only find a mentor, but find the right mentor. Once a mentor/mentee relationship is established, it can be maintained with something as simple as a bi-weekly or monthly meeting, or as frequent as daily email exchanges and dialogue.
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