How to Succeed as a Protégé in the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program

Written by
Tom Schmedding
Published on
22 January 2021

Today, we delve into best practices that help small businesses maximize their participation and extract the utmost value from the mentor-protégé relationship.

Best Practices

  1. Define Clear Goals and Expectations: Small businesses must set clear goals and expectations before starting the Mentor-Protégé Program. Identify areas for improvement and desired outcomes to align with your mentor and maximize the partnership’s impact.
  2. Seek Complementary Expertise: Select a mentor with complementary skills and experience, even from a different industry. This synergy enhances capabilities, accelerates growth, and brings fresh ideas to your business. OnFrontiers expert Jerry Paulsen encourages asking someone to be your mentor.
  3. Network actively: Attend local events and the Federal OSDBU Conference to build your professional network. Consider hosting local SBA events in the future. These can lead to potential partnerships, collaborations, and access to new opportunities.
  4. Foster Open Communication: Regularly communicate with your mentor and SBA Rep/Regional Director through in-person meetings. Share challenges, seek guidance, and provide progress updates. Transparent communication ensures continuous support throughout your journey.
  5. Embrace a Learning Mindset: Approach the program with a thirst for knowledge and openness to new ideas, perspectives, and feedback from your mentor. Actively seek opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills for maximum value.
  6. Be Flexible: The business landscape can quickly change, and being adaptable to new opportunities or challenges is crucial. It is important to be open to adjusting your strategies and goals as needed throughout the program.
  7. Engage Proactively in the Mentorship: Take initiative in the relationship. Seek guidance, ask questions, and actively participate to demonstrate your commitment to growth. A mentor can become a trusted friend, but only through accountability. Both parties should hold each other accountable for the agreed-upon goals and expectations.
  8. Leverage Free Resources and Networks: Utilize free resources and networks provided by the SBA, SBDCs, PTACs, and the Mentor-Protégé Program. Attend training opportunities, workshops, and events to expand your network and gain insights. Engage with other protégés and mentors for support. Jerry Paulsen shared how he still benefits from SBA’s resources to improve his proposals.
  9. Evaluate Progress and Adjust: Regularly assess the mentor-protégé relationship’s impact on your business. Collaborate with your mentor to identify areas for improvement and adjust strategies accordingly
  10. Pay it Forward: After completing the program, mentor other small businesses. Jerry Paulsen currently mentors or consults for 12 small businesses.

By following these best practices, small businesses can unlock the full potential of the Mentor-Protégé Program. Embrace growth opportunities, leverage mentor expertise, and actively engage in the process. With dedication and a proactive approach, the program can become a transformative catalyst for unparalleled success.

Interested in learning more about the SBA’s Mentor-Protege program? Our experts can help.