Mentorship is important for businesses and churches

When I first started Everclean, a trusted adviser told me, “The bottleneck in your growth will be your people. You have to take the time to invest in your people and train them.”

I cringed when I heard that. It sounded slow, painful and messy. I wanted to believe he was wrong but deep down, I knew it was true. I wanted to focus on business development, marketing strategies and R & D — what I thought to be the “fun stuff.” Mentorship sounded like down and dirty, roll-up-your-sleeves, trench work. To add to the dread, I knew it couldn’t be outsourced.  As the Founder and CEO, if mentorship was going to be authentic and effective, I would have to lead the charge …(sigh).

Mentorship, which was once a burdensome thought, is now the lifeblood of our purpose-driven business. Mentorship is a core business strategy I embrace and enjoy every day. Admittedly, it’s not why I got into the car wash business; but now, it’s the reason I’m here.

The bottom-line of mentorship

When I use the word “mentorship,” I’m referring to an experienced person in an organization providing specific and repeated guidance to a less experienced person. I’m referring to a relationship-based approach to people development, rather than an information-based approach to people development.

There are many altruistic motivations for mentorship. However, I’d like to focus on the merits of mentorship as a human resources strategy. Our experience has been that culture and practice of mentorship can help your business on multiple fronts:

1. Deeper and faster skills training

When working with a mentor, people can learn faster and deeper through feedback loops. Many workers suffer from a feedback black hole. Self-learning through the internet can be a powerful tool, but it’s one-way learning. We are chronically bad at self-assessment with our fair share of “blind spots.” We’re too hard on ourselves in some areas while totally missing the mark in others. Mentors can provide appropriate affirmation and correction for deeper, faster learning.

2. Shaping attitudes and perspectives

You can learn to change a tire by reading a manual. What you don’t learn is the gusto with which someone does it, staying positive while having to do it in the rain, or eagerly helping a stranded driver with a flat tire. Some things can be taught, but other things must be “caught.” Mentorship provides the shoulder-to-shoulder time to catch attitudes and perspectives. In the long run, it’s the “caught things” that shape a company’s culture.

3. Personal and career growth

We look for hungry people, but that also means they will want to grow. Mentorship can create time and space to discuss personal growth plans and to strive toward that plan together on a regular basis. This should be separated from performance reviews and company targets. As each person makes gains in their own growth, levels of confidence and motivation skyrockets.

4. Loyalty and commitment

When a worker feels we’re helping them in a personal and relevant way, they feel cared for. Many people will repay your care tenfold through loyalty and commitment. When corporate communication is less than perfectly clear, which is often, many will give you the benefit of the doubt regarding your intentions.

5. Individual feedback

Mentorship is a nonthreatening way to give feedback early, which is when/how people are most open to receiving feedback. If the performance review is the first time a piece of feedback is being given, I consider myself to have failed. It’s a high-stakes, threatening context and a tremendous amount of time has been lost — for both the worker and the organization.

6. Organization feedback

Organizations spend enormous amounts of money trying to get accurate feedback from their customers and workers. Mentorship is one of the best ways to keep your ear to the ground. You have your pulse, real-time on how people are doing and how they feel about their jobs and the company. Then, when mentors hear the same thing enough times, they’re self-motivated to do something about it and/or propose changes to the organization at large.

7. Mentor growth

Mentors are often at stages in their careers where they’ve become good individual performers, perhaps even managers. However, mentorship is a completely different skill. Making a positive impact on another person is something people want to do generally, but often don’t know how to specifically. Developing this new, underdeveloped skill for veteran workers may bring a sense of growth they have not felt since early in their careers.

8. Mentor fulfillment

Mentors are often busy, and the one thing they feel they don’t have time for is mentoring. In my experience, the same busyness that makes me feel like I don’t have time for mentoring is the exact reason I need to be a mentor. When I’m busy, I become withdrawn and focus only on my own agenda. An inward, self-focused life is ultimately an empty one. Mentors stay grounded in what’s important versus urgent and experience a deep sense of gratification in helping others.

9. Relationships and friendships

If you work in an ambitious company, work can be demanding and start to feel like it’s taking over your life. You love what you do, but the long hours can feel empty without friendships. The push for boundaries and separating our professional/personal lives has led to masses of people who can’t wait to get off work, so they can go hang out with their “real friends.” But work can be an opportunity (or even an excuse) to be with people and get to know them. Many people (including myself) prefer to get to know others while working toward a common goal versus sitting across a coffee table. Mentorship, by definition, provides that relational opportunity.

10. Viral, omnidirectional growth

My favorite experience of mentorship is that business growth begins to happen in ways you don’t expect. Apprentices grow, mentors grow, your training materials grow, your HR grows, the organization grows, and on and on. Growth becomes viral and omnidirectional.

The mentorship mindset

Gallup’s Q12 survey is arguably the most effective measure of employee engagement and its impact on the outcomes that matter most to your business: 12 simple questions to measure what’s most important to your employees. For Everclean, mentorship helps address every single one of those questions. I have yet to find a more broad and effective tool for employee engagement and retention.

Mentorship feels extremely inefficient. The mindset of mentorship shifts from the masses to “the one.” But it’s the time-tested, proven way of growing. It’s how we’ve populated this planet. One person bears a child (maybe even a few). Then years down the road, that person bears a child. It seems slow, but it’s an unstoppable force. We’ve multiplied the earth’s population by seven times in 200 years that way. Sometimes, it’s this notion of “changing the world” that hampers our impact most. Very few of us will “change the world.” Most of us will leave our mark on a few people.

We have plenty of messages challenging us to think bigger. But sometimes, we need to think smaller. We need to think about one person. Finally, back to the one reason I said I wouldn’t focus on in this article: It’s the right thing to do.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Rank & File Magazine – a publication for purpose-driven entrepreneurs. More information is available at rankandfilemag.com.

Topics: Discipleship, Job Training, Mentoring

About the Author

Thomas Kim is an entrepreneur and investor with a focus on real estate and small businesses with high growth strategies. He’s the Founder and CEO of Everclean Car Wash, a modern, branded car wash. Its social mission is to enrich lives through opportunity and holistic mentorship. He and his wife, Evelyn, make their home in Chicago, Illinois. His proudest accomplishment is raising three teenage foster children. Hobbies include any sport under the sun (except long-distance running), motorcycles, hunting, and high-fiber breakfasts. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BS in Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.