If you run a business or are thinking of starting one, you’ve probably wished for a business mentor at some point. Someone capable of giving you solid advice, backed by been there and done that experience. Unfortunately, there are only so many mentors to go around and competition for their time can be fierce. So how do you go about getting a business mentor? And what should that relationship look like? In this article, I’ll explain the process I’ve used to learn valuable lessons from world class mentors in a variety of different disciplines.
Every mentor relationship is different and it’s important to be mindful of your desired mentor’s situation. But if you play your cards right, I believe anyone can have a world class mentor in their corner.
Why is having a business mentor so important?
As anyone who’s run a business knows, the path to success is anything but a straight line. There’s plenty of ups and downs and plateaus along the way. Unfortunately most entrepreneurs spend far too much time and energy trying to get through these plateaus under their own steam. Instead of doing what they should be doing, which is seeking the advice of a mentor.
Effective mentoring can be one of the great accelerators of any endeavour. What could’ve taken you six months of research can be turned into a six minute conversation with the right business mentor. By approaching people that are achieving what you’re trying to achieve, you can accelerate your growth and decision making exponentially.
What should a business mentor relationship look like?
An important element of any business mentor relationship is that the student is intentional about what they need from the mentor. A mentor may one day become a friend, but your relationship should not be built around ‘staying in touch’. A student that regularly calls to chat, (out of the fear that they’ll be forgotten) may soon be ignored. Your mentor’s time is precious and deserves your respect.
One way you can respect your mentor’s time is by requesting to see them only after you’ve made sure you couldn’t have Googled your question first. Ask yourself: Why is it essential that my mentor assist me with this specific problem? If you can’t come up with a compelling answer, consider postponing until you’ve done some further research.
Ideally, a business mentor should provide sage advice to get you over the most significant hurdles of growing your business. They may introduce you to a cofounder or investor, provide feedback on your offering or suggest avenues to scale. They will likely have expertise and experience in the market, business type or industry that you’re involved in.
How do you get a business mentor in the first place?
To get a business mentor, particularly one that doesn’t charge, requires positioning yourself as a person of significant value. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re trying to engage with. What are their biggest challenges, headaches and fears? How can you approach the conversation with a mindset to give, rather than take? You can give in any number of ways. An introduction, a recommendation, your time, your expertise, a smile, entertainment, a referral, an invitation etc.
In my experience a true mentor relationship is built up overtime. It comprises of a period of giving with selective and strategic asks made along the way. One of the keys I’ve found to maintaining these relationships is showing your attentiveness when it’s your turn to take. If I’m meeting with a mentor, (seeking their advice around a specific problem) I always take my notebook. Taking notes and being a good student shows that you respect their time, value their opinion and plan on implementing their advice.
If you’re fortunate enough to meet someone willing to mentor you for free, make a point of referring them business. Any mentor you engage should be someone whose work you admire. Show them that by referring them paid work, whenever the opportunity arises.
6 Keys to consider when approaching a business mentor.
- You’ve only got one chance at a first impression, be different. Well known business people have the same conversations every single day. Try finding an obscure passion you share outside of business and introduce yourself by asking their opinion on that.
- Don’t be impatient. Being too eager to sell your business or lock in a mentoring arrangement will send good business mentors running. Instead, take your time, be patient, offer what you can and pick your moments to ask for help.
- Leave a memento over leaving a pitch. A well penned, evocative one-pager delivered in memorable fashion will be remembered long after a desperate, sixty second pitch. Connect, build rapport and trust your ability to communicate your worth, before leaving a typed version of your pitch. Leave them curious and wanting to know more.
- Keep your asks small. Always be specific and personal over generalised and vague. Find the most essential element of the task you need help with and focus on that. Prioritise the information most likely to make a positive impact on the growth go your business.
- Offer to buy them lunch, make your meeting location convenient for them and leave a gift in lieu of payment. The beer economy works wonders, even in the business world.
- Make it okay to say no. Don’t be the person that piles on the guilt, if they fail to get back to you. Business is a marathon, not a sprint. If your impatience burns bridges now, then don’t complain when they’re not there in 10 years time. Because that might be when you really need them.
Consider your ability to amplify their message.
This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention content marketing as a major drawcard in attracting business mentors. An ability to amplify your mentor’s message and help others at the same time as yourself is a valuable skill. A successful podcast, YouTube channel, Instagram profile or blog gives you the ability to deliver value to everyone involved.
Through Americanised, I’ve met influential business leaders from several different industries that have offered me their time and expertise. My ability to present and produce content allows me the privilege of meeting many potential mentors under favourable circumstances. It also allows me to offer something unique that not every business owner can offer. Which in large part is why I considered it so valuable.
Hear from business mentors on The Network podcast.
✅ Tyler Spooner on How To Build A High Growth Start Up
✅ Charlie Gunningham on How To Sell A Small Business
✅ Tom Kooy on Action Setting and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
✅ Chris Nurse on Why Soft Skills Are Important for Tech Entrepreneurs
More on business mentors and networking
➡ Tim Ferriss – How to build a world-class network in record time.
➡ Seth Godin – Heroes and Mentors
➡ Gary Vaynerchuk – How To Find a Mentor (Youtube)
➡ Brene Brown – Engaged Feedback Checklist by Dr. Brene Brown (habitsforwellbeing.com)