For many people, it can be difficult to find that one person who can help them move forward in their careers or business. Finding a mentor can be an intimidating process, of course, and it’s also hard to know where to look. However, finding the ideal advisor – either for your business idea or career – might be a lot easier than you first thought. In this guide, we’re going to explain a few things about mentors and, more importantly, how you can find and approach them to get the solid business advice you crave. Let’s get started right away.
What makes a great mentor?
First of all, what can a business mentor teach you? The simple fact is that they bring a lot of experience to the table, and you will be able to bounce a lot of ideas around with them. They will have a great belief in you and your idea. They will be able to focus your mind on what’s important and advise you on strategy, networking, and establishing your vision. However, before you establish a relationship with a business mentor, it’s important to understand what you want, which we are going to go into right now.
Why do you need a mentor?
Looking for a guide is going to be a lot more difficult if you are unsure of why you need one. The first step to doing so is to establish some key business goals – what are you trying to achieve in business, and what are you looking for to help you? Do you need a good listener to act as a sounding board, for example, or are there specific business tasks that you need help with – marketing, or networking, for instance? Also, bear in mind that it’s possible to have more than one mentor if you need it.
Selling yourself to a mentor
Make sure that you have a simple one-liner memorised that explains who you are and what you do. It’s also worth considering brushing up your small talk skills. You will need to appear enthusiastic, inquisitive and incredibly keen to learn. You also need to leave your ego at the door – no one will consider helping you if you seem unwilling to listen properly.
Establishing a connection – start close from home
If you are looking for a mentor, you need to establish a connection. It could be online or on social media, or it could be in person. But one of the best things you can do to start looking for a business mentor is ask your wider family and friends. It works on two levels. First of all, if you have a family member or friend who already owns a fruitful and long-running business they could be an invaluable source of information. Sure, different industries require different skills, but ultimately all businesses need one important thing: getting results. And the theories and methods of getting those results don’t change much between industries at all. The second way family and friends can help is that the six degrees of separation theory come into play. They might know someone who knows someone else – and before you know it, you could be going out for a dinner meeting with Bill Gates.
Network like crazy
Not everyone has family and friends with a fantastic black book of business contacts. And if this is the case for you, it’s important to get yourself out there. Try attending local business events and getting to know local business leaders – it could prove invaluable. Trade shows are another great opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, and as long as you follow up with your new contacts after the event, you have a chance of striking gold. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that you don’t want to plump for the first person that shows an interest. Finding a good and long-lasting mentor won’t happen overnight, and it requires a lot of meetings and relationship development to know if you both fit each other.
Spread your wings
If you are a local business owner, don’t be afraid to approach others in your industry who do business elsewhere. As long as you aren’t treading on anyone’s toes, many successful owners will be happy to lend you an ear. And they might even be able to recommend someone who would suit your needs. However, bearing in mind that the Internet is making marketplaces smaller than ever, be careful about who you choose to contact – some people might see you as a threat if you intend to have a significant online presence that serves a national market.
Pay for it
Don’t be ashamed of paying for a business advisor or consultant. Ultimately, this is your easiest option (if you have the budget) and it’s a far quicker method of tapping into expertise than developing a long-term relationship. As long as you research each potential consultant and are sure they can bring you value, paying for mentorship can work.
Developing the relationship
Whether you are paying for it or not, it takes time to build up a healthy relationship with a mentor. Once you have decided you are a good fit for each other, you will need to take some time to find out how the other works, including identifying each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to agree on a workflow – and, of course, any potential payment terms. Make sure that you draw up a schedule that outlines how often you will meet and determines some short-term and long-term goals.
Completing the process
With any luck, your relationship will blossom and result in success – for both of you. It might be the case that you have developed a friendship, but ultimately you should be in a position where you can be a mentor to someone else, rather than the mentoree. But what if you haven’t’ achieved your goals? And what if the relationship hasn’t worked out as well as you had hoped? It’s best to reduce contact over time, and always be polite and respectful. Thank your mentor for the things they have helped you with – there will always be something you have learned. And if you do decide to find another mentor, make sure that you don’t leave your previous contact feeling aggrieved – you never know when it could come back to bite you.