Pick your target, be honest and never come across as needy.
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A business mentor can be an invaluable asset when it comes to nurturing and growing your company. With it comes years of experience and a sounding board to help guide you towards your goals while steering you away from the all too typical mistakes that plague all businesses getting off the ground.
We’re going to discuss how to find a mentor that best matches your direction and in the long run will help your business flourish.
Identify Your Needs
The first step to finding the right mentor is to be prepared for the process. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
How receptive are you to new ideas?
How clear is your vision of where you want your company to go?
How well do you take criticism?
How much time are you willing to invest to building a relationship?
If the answer to these questions is overwhelmingly positive, then ask yourself what sort of expertise you’re looking for?
For example, if you’re looking to expand your product overseas and into a new market, you should seek out a mentor who has handled international trade, navigated international IP laws, worked with distributors overseas and customs, and marketing in a foreign country.
A mentor provides a much needed assist in these areas and help you avoid costly mistakes in the long run.
Start the Search
You’re going to want to first try your network of friends and businesses for mentorship. You can also one step out and try the network of your network.
You can also search online on the many mentoring websites, YouTube channels and blogs for free advice and resources. Research and compile your list of organizations and people that resonate with you. Split that into who can offer free and paid mentoring services.
Be confident when reaching out to business people for advice. It’s always best to concise and explain your reason for reaching out. They’re busy people, treat them like their time matters (it does and so does yours).
Set Your Goals
It’s best to meet your mentor in an informal setting first if they are local. There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to get a sense of who this person is and visa versa. You get a better sense of who they are being in the same room.
True of any human interaction. If you have no other choice, video chat on Skype/Facetime is the next best thing.
Your first meetings needs to establish your goals. It would be wise to express clarity on what you expect from the mentoring process. Be respectful, courteous and responsive with the feedback. You may not like what you hear, but take it in stride and thank the person for sitting with you.
Use the initial meeting to decide whether advice should be verbal or written, how often you should meet, and what targets should be set. You may also find it helpful to set time limits on your professional relationship.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
For you to get the best out of the mentoring process, you need to be honest to yourself and about your business. Think of it like a relationship — you need to be open with yourself and about your intentions.
With your mentor, examine the challenges you face and how you intend to overcome them. Be candid about your strengths and weaknesses. Remain open to suggestions.
If you have a tendency to get obsessed by detail, a mentor can help you step back and see the bigger picture. If you are more a big picture person, a mentor can help hone in your mind’s eye towards the minutiae of your business.
Avoid the Neediness
Much like a relationship, you need to stick to the ground rules set up in the first few meetings. Your mentor is there to help, not do your job for you with every challenge or crisis you face. Never turn up to a meeting / coaching session without discussion points, questions, and possible solutions on your mind.
Successful mentoring is like all relationships — it’s a two-way street. You have to be considerate of your mentor’s own timetable and ready to help them in any way you can too.
The take away from your mentorship is to expand your business knowledge. You’re going to find someone who can nudge you in the right direction yet tell you when you’re in the wrong.
Business isn’t about emotion, it’s about facts. Listen to your mentor’s point of view, be open to receiving the information, accept it or discard it, and keep yourself open to changing your mind.
Gordon Fraser is an entrepreneur and leadership coach.