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Small Businesses: Did You Find Your Network and Mentor Yet?

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How did the small business tips to fight holiday stress work out for you and your business? Let's review our checklist -- it's okay if your business is stuck in 'Week 4.' (I am going to throw out something that should be the focus for you in the next 24 weeks -- or six months.) Did you complete the following:
  • Week 1: Review all your invoices for the fiscal year.
  • Week 2: Take this time to complete that webinar for your professional excellence.
  • Week 3: Give your clients space.
  • Week 4: Ping all prospective clients with a hello.
  • Week 5-Week 24: Identify your network to scope out a mentor -- not a friend or an informal advisor.

Because you have followed Week 1 tip to review all your invoices, and send out 'past-due' notices, you are prepared for tax season. Week 2 was for you, so I hoped you explored a webinar that addressed your "lesser strength" in business: negotiating, presentation, or just absorbing positive thinking techniques. I hope Week 3 "Give your clients space" worked out as easily for you as it did for me!

On Week 4: It is absolutely fine if most of your pings to prospectives turned into dead ends. But do not toss away their business cards yet. Just remove them from your top 250 contacts who are not benefiting from a complimentary service in the next six months. It takes about seven instances of contact to win the prospective. "A prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action," according to marketing best practices listed by "The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur," Andrea Stanberg.

Plus, when you send out the next tailored e-card greeting, you don't have to pay the extra 100 dollars for the 251st email address when you use any of the variety of online professional databank services that cost you money after a threshold is reached. Believe me, focus on trying to keep your current clients happy because their testimonials of your service should result in the reliable word of mouth. Don't forget to document their praise and request to use it as testimonial for your website!

Moving Forward by Paying It Forward: Week 4 to Week 24
Back to the tips for the next six months. Fellow Huffington Post Blogger, Marion Chamberlain, described the value behind females "paying it forward" to other females. For those who haven't had the chance to see Pay It Forward, know this: by extending a kind gesture, which might only take five minutes for an established entrepreneur, may result in success in not one new entrepreneur's business, but in others. The gesture pays off. Recently, I connected with a female economist who has advised me on how to submit pieces looking at entrepreneurship in the Arab world. It took her 10 minutes to share, but has afforded me a month's work and a contract: I have successfully pitched the piece -- and got asked to write another!

For example, Chamberlain says that women's networks and female mentors "Hold their vision for them, but make them (newer professionals) own it." Therefore Chamberlain challenges mid-career professional women to take on a mentee because human relationships are learning opportunities beyond books. It is too easy to google an for answer on how to negotiate, or draw up a contract, but it takes time. And another person's experience is a testament to success -- not just reading another inspiring story from Oprah's website. That is why I have partnered with another female entrepreneur -- who is also based in Washington, DC -- where we hold monthly networking workshops for women to de-stress over yoga and exchange business tips. Combining our health and professional goals speaks to the multi-tasking tendencies of many busy professional women.

Lesson Learned: Find a Female Mentor
I cannot stress this enough: find a female mentor. Yes, I agree with Chamberlain that many of us are operating in male-dominated industries. As an entrepreneur and blogger with physician parents, I'm in a new field. I need advice. However, fellow female entrepreneurs: do not dismiss your feminine instincts because professionalism is "gender neutral." Nope, don't do it.

As Alec Baldwin's business tycoon character in 30 Rock Jack Donaghy, laments about mentorship to his mentee, Liz Lemon: "a once-special word that has been tragically co-opted by the Romance-Industrial Complex" has created awkward situations -- too put it mildly -- that are over-complicated by powerful men who mistake the opportunity to hone the talent of a young woman for another dating opportunity. In a nutshell, Baldwin's character downplays how mentor relationships are tricky when the mentor is confused by his role. Don't fall for it if he's "single," no matter how much he believes that it is "chemistry" and tries to convince you that both professional and romantic relationships may be subsumed. He will not be able to advise you out of severing ties when the need arises -- because it is a "conflict of interest." our entrepreneurial success has no time for that type of conflict of interest.