March 3, 2022
Double Your Chances of Business Success!
Yes, you read that right, you can double the chances of your business succeeding! And small businesses need the help.
The Small Business Administration reports that one in three businesses closes its doors within the first three years of doing business and about half don’t make it past year five. To put it another way, roughly one in ten businesses close each year. That is a grim tale, but it is the naked truth in the small business world.
Enough grim talk—let’s get right to the point. Every owner opened their business to solve two problems. The first was to offer a product or service to meet a perceived need in the community. The second was to solve a personal problem: to bring enough personal income to pay one’s bills, or to keep one busy or to build a successful business, with the payoff coming later when they sell it. How then can we beat the odds of being one in ten businesses that close each year?
One word: Mentorship.
Involve yourself and your organization in some form of mentorship.
Surveys have shown that between 60 and 70 percent of all business owners do not have or never have had a business mentor. On the other hand, partnering with some form of mentor program has shown, through a robust study done by The UPS Store, that small businesses who received outside mentorship saw more than a 70 percent success rate beyond five years. This was double the rate of success for non-mentored businesses. In the same study, those businesses that made being mentored as part of their business process, 88 percent said it was an invaluable resource.
So what is a “mentor”? We will define a mentor as a “Wise Advisor.” A mentor can take on many forms, and there are many options available to retailers in our industry to incorporate mentorship into their business. The main forms of mentorship are either One-On-One, Group or Resource-based.
Let’s explore One-on-One Mentorship. This often is the most comfortable for a business owner as they can find someone who is either successful in another industry or within their industry but not in a competing market. Often nothing more than a simple “ask” is needed for the targeted mentor. Make the most of your time at industry events such as SHOT University, NSSF Marketing and Leadership Summit, NSSF Range-Retailer Business Expo, Buy Group Markets and Distributor events where a target-rich environment is available and best-in-class business owners are present.
The key to making One-On-One mentorship work depends on two factors. The first is setting up a regular schedule and blocking out a time that isn’t too daunting. Sixty minutes should be the target goal and then meeting once a month, at least to start, is a good benchmark to shoot for. The second is to set out well-defined goals. This is where the mentor can bring their expertise to bear. Just remember, asking someone to be your mentor is not a selfish act. The act of being a mentor brings with it just as many benefits as being mentored. Creating a broader professional network, honing leadership skills, becoming a better communicator as well as getting new ideas and perspectives from the mentee benefit the mentor in an equitable way.
This perspective of mentor/mentee relationships delivering benefits to both parties brings us to our next option for mentorship: Group Mentorship. Group Mentorship connects multiple business owners to share ideas, actions, business metrics, goal setting, and accountability. A business in isolation often struggles to visualize whether it is thriving or just surviving. Having the ability to compare a business to other similar models can help spotlight where success and struggle are hiding. These groups can be member-driven or be managed by a third-party facilitator. Jared Sloane, Director of Operations at Shoot Smart, a multi-store Texas-based range, retail, and training operation says, “One of the benefits of Group Mentorship is that it affords you the ability to compare business metrics and help you measure up to what other facilities can perform at.”
Jared adds, “It is important to make sure that the businesses you are comparing yourself to have similar business structures, otherwise it can be hard to feel relevant.” The key here is that you have a group of individuals who will give you a more factual perspective on the health of your business than you could ever self-assess. Add to that the benefits of the group being your accountability partner while keeping you on track to improve the health of your business.
The third option for business owners is Resource-based Mentorship. This involves independent, and often free, organizations that pair up business owners with volunteer experts in various business fields. Programs such as SCORE, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping small businesses thrive via mentorship and education, bring a large community from many backgrounds together to promote small business success. The one downside to organizations like this is that they may not have business professionals with backgrounds specific to the firearm range/retail space. Even with this potential shortcoming, there are still many opportunities to gain vision and knowledge around what it takes to run a successful business regardless of industry. The key is to get involved!
Going it alone often feels like the right path, especially for those who are currently running successful businesses. The firearm industry has a long history of “going it alone,” but we can change that legacy as there are many options available to anyone wishing to take that next step. As the old East African proverb goes, “Alone a youth runs fast, with an elder slow, but together they go far.”
Welcoming a mentor, or becoming a mentor yourself, can be an impactful way not only to give back to the community but help you find ways to succeed beyond your expectations. And isn’t that what we all want? To succeed beyond what we expected and enjoy the fulfillment of giving back to the larger community. It’s the best outcome we could ask for.