6 Reasons to Become a Mentor

Below Paul Hargreaves, author of new book Forces for Good: Creating a better world through purpose-driven businesses, and CEO of the fine foods wholesaler Cotswold Fayre, discusses six reasons becoming a mentor can be immensely valuable to any CEO.

In 2012 I attended a trade show and was walking the event looking for innovative new food and drink products to add to our company’s portfolio when I became aware that there were very few young food entrepreneurs in the exhibition hall. I decided to do something about it, so in 2013 started our ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ award, open to 16-24-year-olds. The winner would win a cash prize and, perhaps more importantly, would receive mentoring from me for a year as they grew their embryonic food brand. The quality of the applicants was astounding, and some incredible young talent was unearthed, two of whom have since gone on to appear on BBC 2’s Dragon’s Den.

Whilst I hope there has been a benefit to these young entrepreneurs from working with me, I can honestly say that I have received back as much as I have given out each year. Whilst not all mentoring is old to young, much of it is and engaging with younger people is life-giving and energy-creating and certainly benefits the mentor as much as those being mentored. I thoroughly recommend it. Here are 6 reasons to encourage you to do the same.

  1. As we become older, we can err on the cynical side, and it is good for us to have some of this cynicism blown away by the ‘no blinkers’ view from those of a younger age and attitude. Put simply it is good for us and keeps our minds young.
  2. Spending some time with our eyes taken off our own businesses and investments is good and will often give us a new perspective when coming back to affairs closer to home. Just as spending time away from home and work relaxing can fuel our creativity, spending some time in another business can often achieve the same result of giving us a fresh perspective.
  3. Mentoring a younger Millennial leader, for example, will give us a good insight into how another generation thinks and what values are important to them, important from a recruitment perspective. Each generation is different, all with positives and negatives, and learning what makes other generations tick can only be of benefit to us as we recruit and manage people from other generations. Of course, there may well be a more direct impact and it has been known for those who are mentored to join the mentor’s company in some role in the future.
  4. As a mentor, through mixing in different business circles we may see future investment opportunities. It is all too easy to become too narrow-minded in our focus and broadening this out to include other sectors entirely may open up our minds to other investments.
  5. If you have had several years of business success and are comfortably off, mentoring others for no financial incentive is simply a good thing to do. Others within your own company will adopt the ‘giving out’ attitude as they watch you do the same and your company will become a better and more productive place to work as a result.

Finally, mentoring others and giving out in this way will make you happier and you will live longer! A bold claim, so let me explain. Embedded deep within our humanity as social mammals is a need for community. Those who live their whole lives only focussed on themselves and their own success are often unhappier people and die younger than those who look to give out to others. You will also bring that outward focus into your own business, and as the 21st century progresses, it will increasingly be those businesses that are not only focused on profit that will prosper and succeed. Looking outward to help others and the wider global community will have a tremendous positive impact on both us personally and our businesses. Mentoring can form an important part of this outward focus.

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