Many of the most successful business people; Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson to Oprah Winfrey, have stated that having a mentor to whom they could turn for guidance in trying times was a crucial part of their success. When a UPS study compared businesses that had mentors to those that didn’t, it found that those with mentors lasted twice as long as those without, on the average. Even in business training, mentorship is considered so important that some MBA programs such as that of SCU have started initiatives to incorporate mentor pairing alongside academics in their programs, reporting impressive benefits among students who participate. So, what is it about mentorship that’s so great?
Why Mentorship is Crucial
Starting a business can be a grueling affair. Juggling all the different needs of the business with personal life can quickly become frustrating. Having a mentor is essentially like having a business consultant, but one who is emotionally invested into the success of your business by virtue of the personal relationship you share. That connection is important because they will likely be more inclined to go over and above than someone who’s only motivated by the money.
A good mentor would have experience in your field (the more direct and extensive the experience, the better) and would be able to help you navigate all the business decisions you need to make at different stages. Seeing as you won’t be paying anything for their services (except the cost of buying them coffee when you meet), that’s definitely an incredible deal for any business person.
Now, here are three things you’ll need to keep in mind as you cast around for the best mentor for you:
1. Define Your Needs
Planning is a key element in making any business decision, and the choice of mentor is no different. The first thing you’ll have to spell out is what areas you need guidance in the most, and rank them in order of priority. In today’s fast-evolving startup environment, you might find it difficult to get someone who has experience in your exact business model and industry, but you’ll definitely find someone close enough if you look hard.
Apart from the mentor’s competencies, another important area to focus on is their availability. This is important because a mentorship relationship is one that requires regular interaction. You might be tempted to go for the biggest CEO in your industry but often, less prominent people may be better since you’ll be able to pick their brains much more often without becoming a nuisance. A weekly meeting is ideal, but once or twice a month will work if you’ll be able to stay in touch via social media.
2. Make the Approach Properly
When you settle on someone whom you’d like to be your mentor, the next stage is often the most crucial part. That’s because unless it’s someone whom you already have a relationship with, your manner of approach could either make them excited to mentor you or lead to an outright rejection. There are a few ways to go about this, but the best one is to see if there’s anyone whom you know that could facilitate an introductory meeting. That way, you’d have the benefit of the credibility that comes with being referred as well as the chance to make a good first impression in person.
If that’s not an option, you can reach out to them via email or social media. One thing I always recommend is for the approach to be made only after you’ve created some rapport via social media. Something as simple as commenting or retweeting their posts could go a long way in ensuring that they’ll recognize you and have a good disposition when you eventually send them an email.
3. Maximize the Relationship
After you kick off your mentorship, you’ll want to make sure that you are making the most of it in terms of the benefits to your business and your personal entrepreneurial development. One good rule of thumb is to prepare well in advance of any sit-down you schedule, just as you would for a business meeting. Outline the experiences you want to share and the questions you want to ask.
Of course, your relationship will grow less formal over time, but these outlines will help keep your eyes on the most important things and ensure you remain time-conscious. Remember that it’s important to give while you take, so try to provide whatever benefits you can in gratitude. Even something as simple as promoting their social media posts will definitely be noticed and appreciated.
In all, having a mentor could be very beneficial for you and your business if you do it properly. By following the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to starting and maintaining a relationship with your ideal mentor.