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OP-ED: The Value of Virtual Mentoring in the Post-Pandemic Business World

Entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a business need to understand matters ranging from business planning to marketing, and it is highly unlikely that they will have such broad-based skills to be an expert in all these matters. For this reason, the value of small business support services – especially mentoring – cannot be understated.

Mentorship works as a simple but effective buddy system for businesses. An entrepreneur is paired with a seasoned business professional who offers them guidance and support as they work to establish their company. A mentor can help navigate this complex process, answer pressing questions, and establish networking connections, as well as offering valuable insights on mistakes the entrepreneur should avoid.

The SBA acknowledged the value of small business mentoring in a 2019 article, describing it as the “missing link to small business growth and survival.” The administration cited research showing that businesses that have access to a mentor early in their development stood a considerably better chance of growing, earning higher revenues, and enduring beyond the five-year benchmark that about half of new businesses fail to reach.

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid shift to remote work and online interactions, mentoring went virtual as well. This change has opened a vast new world of possibility for entrepreneurs. SCORE, which includes business mentorships as a centerpiece of its offerings, notes that virtual mentoring offers greater flexibility, an expanded network, and improved accessibility. These benefits will be extremely useful as business owners work to rebuild their business or launch a new venture after losing a previous business to the pandemic.

InnovatorsLINK (IL), a benefit corporation, believes virtual mentoring offers a key opportunity to assist the economic recovery in the United States. We have developed a system of mentoring through our Virtual Business Coaching (VBC) Program. The coaches are not consultants in the conventional sense. They teach, advise, and assist entrepreneurs in the process of becoming competent and business savvy.

Benefits of a Virtual Business Coach

  • Validation of the IL Boot Camp course material in the virtual mentoring sessions with the VBC is the foundation of the program
  • Completion of the IL Boot Camp courses will afford businesses a VBC who will be available to mentor through the business planning and cash flow projection process
  • A VBC is fundamental to survival through the growth process and can help to put the process and risks in perspective
  • A VBC finance coach will assist the entrepreneur in finding compatible sources that fit with their capital and financing requirements, and guide businesses through the process

InnovatorsLINK is currently near completion of the (12) IL Boot Camp Course Curriculum. IL is initially looking for entrepreneurs that have been in business for at least one year and are looking to expand. Entrepreneurs who meet this criteria and are interested in applying for the VBC program can contact IL for an application. The initial course groups are free to successful applicants.

If you are interested in additional information, click here.

We believe that virtual mentoring is crucial not just for pandemic recovery, but also to reverse a decades-long decline in entrepreneurship brought on by factors such as more stringent financing requirements. This trend has broader implications, as a lower rate of business formation results in fewer new employer firms and a more sluggish economy – a particular concern as the U.S. works to recover from the pandemic.

The SBA Community Navigator Pilot Program, which is being launched through the U.S. Small Business Administration, also has the potential to aid this effort. The program will establish partnerships with business organizations, local governments, nonprofits, and other resources to improve entrepreneurs’ access to technical assistance such as networking, mentoring, and other services.

We encourage the SBA to invest strongly in assistance grants to fund virtual mentoring for businesses in order for the Community Navigator program to facilitate a sizable impact on entrepreneurialism. We believe such efforts will maximize the effect of the allocated funds, provide essential support for small businesses to reach their full potential, and ensure that they have the best chance of survival and success!

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