I just got back from having a long lunch with an experienced, seasoned player in the franchise industry. We talked business, staffing, marketing, operations, and vacations. His enthusiasm for my company and its potential will keep me going for days. His ongoing mentoring and advice will benefit both myself, and my business.
Driving back to the office I marvelled at how long it took me to connect with this individual. Where was he back when I was actively searching for a mentor in franchising?
When I was preparing to franchise in 2008 I read every book I could find about franchising. I quickly ran into the same content, and it wasn’t the information I was looking for. Most franchising books provided advice to the individual on how to select a franchise system. Most “how to franchise your business” books addressed the tedious legalities but didn’t deal with operations or marketing.
I turned to the Entrepreneurship Centre in Ottawa for help. I had participated in their mentoring program as a mentor, and figured it was time to reverse roles. They connected me to a local woman involved in franchising a business in another industry. “Finally!” I thought. Some real-world advice I can actually use.
Now may be the time to clarify what I mean by mentor. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as an experienced person who trains and counsels someone else in the same field. A mentor encourages, supports, and guides someone away from poor decisions.
I went into my mentorship session with a short list of questions such as “what do you know now which you didn’t know when you started?” and “what would you do differently, if you could do it over again?” which I thought would kick off a lively conversation. I had a fresh notebook ready to jot down details from all the stories and advice I was expecting to hear.
Instead, I encountered negativity. She answered “nothing” and “nothing” to my questions. In a defeatist tone, she plainly told me that she wouldn’t do anything differently, that franchising is a man’s world, prohibitively expensive, and advised that I stay the hell away from it.
Not what I was expecting to hear. What shocked me most was the notion that she hadn’t learned anything in her few years in franchising. How can one experience something new for that long and fail to learn one thing? Is it possible that she simply didn’t want to give me advice? If that was the case, why did she agree to this mentorship session?
Sadly, I’ve encountered this attitude before and since. Why are women often reluctant to help other women? Why have not I not been able to find a woman mentor? Is mentoring just for men?
Recently I’ve noticed a positive shift in the social media community towards a supportive community for businesswomen. There are some wonderful organizations established by women to create space where women can get support and advice from other women. One of my favourites is Positive Fabulous Women. Care to share other resources?