Tag Archives: business mentoring programs

8 Steps to Begin a Business

This 8 step guide to starting a business will give you direction so you can you can start your business with confidence. I’m Mike Garska, the president of FindAmentor.com and I started my first business in a very creative way with no money in the bank. At the end of this 8 step guide you can read my story about starting my first business. I started my own cell phone businesses with no money and from the trunk of my car and grew it to 3 stores and 3 million in sales. For over 15 years I’ve coached many family businesses on growing or selling their business, or buying more businesses. I coach and facilitate effective communication flow and team building in family businesses. With this guide I want you to feel confident that you are following the right steps to starting your business.

An 8 step guide to starting a business.

  1. Decide what the right business for you is. Ask yourself many questions. If you are going to go into business for yourself and want to succeed, you will have to commit to the long haul and doing whatever it takes — going the extra mile often. If you are going to commit this deep it is best if there is a passion inside you and /or super high interest in serving through this type of business. Businesses succeed because they serve better than the competition and work through their struggles. It takes work and work is easier and fun if you love what you do and are committed to a purpose. Read our blog about 7 Steps to Find you Passion and Purpose.
  2. Decide when a good time to start is. If you are working now, and want to start something part time, do allot of research before you leave your job and begin. You may want to get some experience in the business you want to open by working for someone else in the same type of business before you begin yourself. How much money you have will be a determinant in deciding when to start.

    Do you have money to buy an existing business? Buying an existing business, after doing proper due diligence, is typically much easier. (due diligence means looking very closely at the business you are buying before making an offer and actually buying the business. If you do not have experience buying a business, hire an accountant and a lawyer and talk to some mentors before you commit to anything. Learn the due diligence process and do it before buying any business.

    When you buy a business you typically get the experienced team that took the business to a decent level of success to date. They are succeeding and if you have a deep passion for the industry and genuine curiosity to learn more, combined with the desire to serve better, you can typically increase profits. You will need to be a good leader and continue to develop leadership skills so you can become one of the best leaders. The best leaders commit to life-long learning.

    If you are starting a business with little or no money —research before you begin. If you are working take time in the evenings to research, research, and research and quit your job when you are very confident your income will be replaced quickly and before you spend all your savings.

  3. Do market research and industry research. If you don’t have experience in the field, you will need to be committed to learning through struggle and research. Know your competition. Learn about the suppliers and the customers. If a business is really competitive, that’s usually a sign that it’s a good business and some people are making money and doing well. Don’t be afraid of competition. Do it better. When there’s very little competition it might be a sign that the business idea is weak but not always.

    If you have a new business idea, maybe the timing is right. Research before you make a decision on a new business idea where there is little competition. Make sure the market is big enough and viable. Ask how difficult it will be to access and reach your market. Ask yourself, and answer honestly: how much customer education do you have to do to sell your product? Is it feasible? Don’t just rely in your opinions or your friends. Do some actual research. Is there enough of a market? Can you get to market with a price that people will pay? Can you get through the business building phase without running out of money resources?

    Ask and find out: What size of business succeeds in this industry? Is it common for people to grow from nothing into a big company in this industry? What is the average EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) in the industry and what size of companies reach the top EBITDA? What is the employee to profit ratio? What is the percent of wages to revenue standard? What is the standard cost of customer acquisition and cost of customer retention?

  4. Commit. Be willing to go the long haul. Always focusing on turning struggle into opportunity into success. After researching, ask yourself if you are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, to go the long haul, not give up and learn whatever it takes to make this venture work for you? Think long and hard before making this decision. Don’t start your business without a full commitment that you will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes and through whatever struggle comes up. 80% of small businesses fail because the owner either didn’t do enough research before he or she started or because they weren’t able or willing to go the long haul in all the ways necessary for success.

    Remember the vast majority of North Americans work for small businesses. Small business is the backbone of our economy. Many small business owners simply have bought themselves a job and struggle day to day to make ends meat. Many are okay with that because they want to be their own boss. The top 10 or 20% small business owners make allot of money and their business works for them rather than them working for their business. To get to this phase most worked long and hard for 10 years. The most successful small business people I’ve met really began to do well after the ten year mark and were thriving at the twenty year mark. Be willing to go the long haul. This is the norm. The exception are those that make it to the top quickly.

  5. Make 3 plans.
    1) Make a business plan.
    2) Make an operations plan.
    3) Make a cash flow projection plan.
    Research these on the internet to see what they look like or watch for future blogs posts from FAM.
  6. Find out the benefits for you of starting your business as a proprietorship, partnership (if you have a partner) or a limited company and start the business.

    Talk to an accountant and/or business consultant to find out the details of each type of venture and which one benefits you most at this point in time. Consequences of each differ from state to state, province to province and country to country. Typically a limited company has tax and liability advantages but costs more money up front to set up and more money every year to complete tax returns.

    Once you know which is best for you, start the business or buy the one you’ve done your due diligence on. If you are starting from scratch, maybe do it part time at first if funds are low and you have a current job. Set a deadline for yourself to quit your job and have your business support you. Before you actually quit your job, re-evaluate before the deadline you’ve given yourself and make sure it’s the right decision. Set another deadline if you have to and get some guidance from professionals. Your business will really succeed when it becomes your primary focus.

  7. Hire 3 professionals as you need them and can afford them. When I started my first business, one of my mentors told me to get 2 advisors. A really good accountant and a really good lawyer. I think a good business person has 3 primary advisors. I’ve added having a good business coach. When I started in business there weren’t many business coaches around. The scene has changed. There are many now. Instead of hiring a business coach to start, I used 4 mentors as I was building a business from the trunk of my car to 3 stores and 3 million in annual sales. All of them were successful business people and millionaires. Mentoring is a form of free coaching in my mind. Coaching is more intense and often we commit to a coaching process more because we pay for it. I did hire a business coach after about year 6.

    Shop around. Interview a couple or three professionals in each field before hiring them, and making them a part of your team.

    1) Having a great, or at least very good, accountant is most important. Don’t put this one off. Make sure you can afford this one. There are ways to reduce accounting fees by doing the books yourself — tracking and recording clearly all revenues and expenses, and simply having the accountant review them at year end to help you file taxes.

    Review your business model and 3 plans with the accountant when starting the business. Get feedback. Are the plans on paper viable? Have experts look at your numbers. Revamp plans a minimum of once a year and get outside opinions.

    2) When you have to sign contracts you will need a good lawyer to review them before you sign. Read anything you are signing fully yourself. Businesses need to sign leases, buy-sell agreements, supplier agreements, customer contracts or sale agreements, etc. Know the documents. Take the time. Reading them yourself before getting a lawyer’s advice can save money. If you are making up your own agreements have a lawyer review them.

    3) Hire a business coach and find some mentors. Don’t go it alone on business process. As your business builds, you will have to hire teams. The best leaders have the most successful businesses. Coaches help us become better leaders. Use one.

    If you can’t afford a coach, get many mentors. Make sure your mentors have different skill sets. A really successful business person has 3 skill sets. He or she is a good sales person. He or she is a good counter and accounting person. He or she is a good people person — leader. When a business person can do all 3 of these really well, they are really successful.

  8. Sell, Sell, Sell. If you aren’t willing to sell, don’t start or buy a business. Learn the best type of inexpensive marketing for your industry. If you have an online business, learn on-line marketing and sales. If you have a conventional business, learn the marketing and sales aspects of the successful competitors and sell, sell, sell. If you haven’t sold before, learn it and do it. There is no way around this part of growing a business. If you really don’t want to learn sales and can afford it, hire an experienced successful sales person or people. Even with a professional sales team, the owner has to sell at different times though, so learning how to do it is critical to ongoing growth and success.

    Good luck with your business. Good luck comes with hard work, perseverance, patience, persistence, purpose, passion, good communication and empathy — ability to question, listen and understand others.

Mike Garska,

This is my story of starting a business with no money. I was fired from a job when I was 28. I had 10 years industrial business and industrial sales experience working with other companies in the rolls of Expeditor, Shipper Receiver, Purchaser, Inventory control, Inside Sales Person, Sales co-ordinator, Outside Sales Person, and Sales Manager. I knew how to sell and service Oilfield, Forestry, Mining, Petrochemical and Construction companies. I had a great base of contacts and past clients as well as a very good reputation for offering and servicing great products and services.

I didn’t have any money saved so I had to figure out how to start a business with zero funds. I approached one of my mentors, a business owner who sold and rented industrial construction equipment. He set me up as an independent dealer of his equipment lines an doffered a monthly guarantee.

I needed a car to get to clients offices. When I got fired, I had to give back my company car so I needed a new business vehicle to get around and work. I approached a vehicle leasing company that sold or leased every make and model of car. I told the General Manager that it was the same purchaser who bought trucks and cars for companies that bought the construction equipment and since I would be contacting these people to sell them equipment I could also sell them cars and trucks. I asked for a free car and in exchange for representing the leasing company. He didn’t agree to a free car but he agreed to lease me one at his cost. I went for it.

The next thing I needed was a cell phone. I wanted to be able to have quick contact with customers and I wouldn’t be home to receive calls. Cell phones were new to the world at that time. It was 1987. They were only available in a car mount and cost $3000.00 to buy and over $300 per month on average to operate. That was a big budget for someone starting a new business with no money but a better option than using a much less expensive paging system and pay phones.

I approached one of the two cell phone stores in town at the time and gave the General Manager the same spiel I gave the car leasing manager. It was the same purchaser who bought trucks, cars and construction equipment for companies that bought the cell phones and since I would be contacting these people to sell them equipment and vehicles I could also sell them cell phones. I asked for a free phone and phone line in exchange for representing the cell phone company.

He didn’t agree to free but he agreed to set me up as a dealer, sell me phones at wholesale and give me a free demo phone line. I agreed and they sold my personal phone to the car leasing company so it could be included in my lease payments. I now had equipment lines, vehicle lines and a cell phone line to sell to construction and oilfield companies. I was in business and could afford my monthly expense commitments with ease. They were under $500.00 per month and the Equipment Company guaranteed me $800.00 per month when I signed the agent agreement with them. My expenses were covered and I started selling.

Within a few months it was clear that the cell phone business offered the best opportunity. I had sold some vehicles and equipment as well as many phones, so the managers of those lines were happy with me. I decided to drop the equipment and vehicles, parted ways on good terms with the managers and owners, and began to focus on cell phones. Within nine years we had 3 stores, reaching 3 million a year in sales and often had 2 of the top 10 stores in the country.

I used creative thinking and negotiating to start my first business. Can you be creative? Can you hone your negotiation skills? I think so. Good luck in starting your business. Follow the 8 step guide above and be creative.

Mike Garska, President.

Don’t Waste Your Time with a Mentor Program

In theory, leaders, managers, and employees largely agree on the importance of a having a mentor program. Corporate mentor programs are often named as one of the Top 5 reasons people choose an employer. This moves into the Top 3 when you whittle down the list to Gen Y, Gen Z, and High-Potentials. More and more companies are acknowledging the weight and importance of a mentor program, but the programs often fall short of expectations from all sides.

When the urgency is cranked up within an organization, which it almost always is, mentor programs often don’t garner much attention from executive leaders. Who can blame them? What’s the ROI on a mentoring program? Not very high in most cases, but why?

To answer this question, we must examine the reason most mentoring programs are setup in the first place and how they are most often implemented.

Top 5 Reasons Mentoring Programs are Established

  1. Recruiting – demonstrates to the outside world that the organization values its employees
  2. Retention – studies show that employees who are mentored stay on the job longer
  3. Engagement – employees who have confidants at work stay longer and work harder
  4. Knowledge Transfer – quicker onboarding and higher productivity
  5. Cultural Management – improved communication and alignment

Beyond recruiting, most organizations actualize very little of these desired benefits. Often it’s not from a lack of energy, desire, or time. In fact, mid-level managers frequently spend a disproportionate amount of time engaging in activities they define as “mentoring” compared to the benefit to the mentee, mentor, and organization. The single biggest reason why corporate mentor programs fail to live up to expectations is simple; LACK of STRUCTURE. Let’s visit the difference between a structured and unstructured mentoring program.

Unstructured Program:

  • No link to business objectives
  • Goals are nonspecific
  • Results are not tracked
  • Matching is based on proximity
  • Program is limited and exclusive
  • Meetings are infrequent and ad-hoc
  • Best practices are not followed


  • Tied to business objectives
  • Success goals are established
  • Results are measured
  • Matching is based on individual and organizational needs
  • Management is aligned
  • Best practices are developed and shared
  • Support resources are available

After a short review of these differences, which type of program do you think is more beneficial to all parties? If you answered “STRUCTURED” as most people do, then why do most programs contain very little structure. The simple reason is time. Structuring a mentoring program takes time and with urgent and important activities tugging at employees and organizations all day long there is very little time to structure a program that truly yields the desired benefits. So why should your organization spend the time and energy to structure its mentoring program? Because, if not, you’re just WASTING TIME.

Devin Lebrun

FindAMentor.com helps companies’ structure communication flow so employees are engaged

4 important tools for your mentor program and the mentors.

Mentors need tools — make sure they have them.

Tools help your mentor lead discussions and facilitate expanded learning in mentoring.

1st. Make formal training programs part of a formal mentor program. It makes it easy for mentors to facilitate conversations if the mentee is enrolled in formal education of some type. The mentor and mentee can discuss how the training or schooling is going and the mentor can offer experiential feedback. If you are administering a corporate mentor program, make sure mentees have access to outside training and they are listed as an item in the session agenda.

Professional associations make it mandatory for their members to update best practices through industry approved training, which gives them credits that meet the association standards. If a particular position in your company doesn’t have a mandatory upgrade knowledge credit system, create one for your employees.

Seek out programs that enhance the mentees ability to serve. An example of formal training outside the company might be a communications course for those wanting to improve their conflict resolution skills. Another one might be special safety training for a company involved in construction projects. Leadership training is attractive to most employees and many jump at the opportunity to learn these skills. Universities offer many adult education programs that may fit with your industry. Have someone research them.

Send sales people to sales courses outside the company training system. Send IT people to courses for new development ideas or maybe on-line marketing. Search out on-line programs — there are many available for almost any field. Mentors will have fun talking about these courses.

2nd. Make sure the mentor program and session structure allow for some communication training and discussion. The number one business challenge that continually comes up for employees when we survey businesses is effective information and communication flow. When I talk to individuals about challenges at work or home, communication is often cited as the block.

Making communication and information flow part of the mentor-mentee session discussion automatically puts a focus on improving it. What humans focus on, expands. When mentors and mentees discuss communication effectiveness constructively, it improves for both.

Search out a communications course source that all employees can take to enhance their ability to communicate in tough circumstances and tense situations. Give mentors and mentees opportunity to learn and grow their ability to communicate effectively and your company will grow and communicate effectively.

3rd. Mentors need is a guide to follow in their mentor sessions with mentees. A form to fill out. They can have the mentees fill the form but having one to follow helps. Make sure it includes a list of different types of goals and objectives — short term and long term. Most of these items can be reviewed quickly. Others may need more time.

    Hard skill goals; ie. Industry skills, computer skills, etc.
    Soft skill goals; ie: emotional attributes to build on, communication skills, etc.
    Career goals; what does the mentee want their career to look like? Where do they want to be in 6 months, five years and ten years?
    Financial goals.
    Relationship goals. (if it’s a work environment, focus on co-worker relationships. Although depending on the mentor-mentee relationship, this may move into discussion about personal relationships outside of work.)

4th.Give mentors feedback. Mentors typically want to help and when they are guided on how they could do this better, they like it. Have a system in your mentor program for mentees to give feedback to the mentor on how he or she sees the mentors’ effectiveness. This needs to be done gently with a good communicator, and may need a third party leader or facilitator, and permission has to be given by the mentor to receive it. The program administrator may be a good resource providing he or she has mediation skills.

These four tools can help you make your mentor program great. Thank you for reading.

Mike Garska
President. FindAMentor.com

Don’t Bog Down The Mentors

The EPIC Mentor Network Blog for companies.
Avoid these 3 mistakes with your mentors in your corporate mentor program, and they will serve you and their mentees better. Their commitment to the program will be stronger.
It’s very important to track process and progress in a corporate mentor program and mentors play a role in reporting. Be careful with your time requests on mentors.
A goal and benefit of a mentor program are mentee growth and achievement — measured in many different ways depending on the company and what they do. Tracking mentee objectives and progress in Mentor-Mentee sessions is important. The tracking shows the benefits.
These benefits translate into ROI for the company in the form of improved employee retention, productivity, effective and efficient on-boarding and training — knowledge transfer from the baby boomers and/or high achievers to younger or newer employees, and improved information and communication flow resulting from team collaboration.
Mentee growth, achievement and loyalty happen in a formal mentoring program because mentees are forced to write down their goals and report progress to the mentor.
Gail Mathews of Dominican University did a study on goal writing and being accountable to another person. “Research conducted by Matthews shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend, were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.” (Source)
Do you want your employees to be 33% more successful in goal achievement? As T.Harv Eker would ask, yes or yes? A formal mentor program incorporates the concept of having mentees write down their goals and being accountable to someone.
Keeping mentees on track and accountable is key but:
1) Don’t bog down the mentors with filling out session forms. Typically mentors are senior employees or high achievers in the business. They are very busy people. Anything that can be done to reduce their time required to participate in the program is helpful.
Have the mentee fill out the session forms and simply get the mentor to sign off. This gets the mentee in the habit of writing down his or her goals, which is a great thing. After sign-off, have the mentor forward the form to someone for filing in the employee coaching file. These session forms are helpful to have during the employee’s annual performance review. With the FindAMentor Easy Start Mentor Program we suggest having a legal file for employees as well as an employee coaching file, which is reviewed annually in the performance review.
2) Avoid asking mentors to do program evaluations or surveys more than once a year. In the first year of the program you might ask for it twice, in an effort to adjust program structure after program implementation. These evaluations are important but don’t have mentors do them too often.
I think it’s important to have mentors come together once a year with the other mentors and program administrators in a meeting to discuss the effectiveness and best practices of the program from the mentor’s perspective, so adjustments can be made to program structure.
3) Don’t make Mentor meetings too long. Make sure the mentors are given agenda’s and a planned time frame for the meeting. Make sure you provide a strong meeting chairperson to keep expectations of the mentors met.
I hope these suggestions help you improve the commitment of the mentors in your corporate mentor program.

Mike Garska,
President, FindAMentor