How To Find A Mentor That's Right For You
I’m going to share a secret with you: it took me a long time to realise the value of having a mentor and I’m sure that if I’d had one back in the day, I wouldn’t have lost my first business.
That’s quite a statement. But it’s 100% true.
When my ex-husband and I started our business in 2000 I, having worked in sales and business development for many years before, and been very successful at it, thought I was pretty savvy. And I was; I knew how to sell, how to market, and how to build something from nothing. These are still the skills I use today, and they’ve served me well.
But I didn’t know everything else about business. For instance, I didn’t know how to write solid financial projections (and actually I’m not sure that you should ever let a salesperson loose on financial projections – their natural optimism overtakes the caution needed), although I did impress our bank manager with ours, to the tune of a significant investment; I didn’t know how to put operational processes and systems in place (that took a fair degree of trial and error!), and I didn’t know the value of a partnership agreement. I learned the last one to my cost when I lost my business, and everything else, when my marriage broke down.
Now every founder makes mistakes – and I’m a huge fan of making mistakes – but some mistakes are avoidable; and they’re avoidable because if you asked someone for their advice, or picked their brains for their own experiences, you’d be able to sidestep them nicely and move on quickly and painlessly.
I know that if I’d had a mentor at the very start of my first business venture, when our accountant advised us to have a partnership agreement drawn up (and my ex-husband and I laughed, thinking that a marriage contract trumped a partnership agreement), the mentor would have made me think twice about my decision not to bother.
I know that if I’d had a mentor when my business was growing stratospherically, and my marriage was disintegrating rapidly, the conversation about what was going to happen to the business – and where would that leave me - would have happened.
I know that if I’d had a mentor, I wouldn’t have felt so helpless; floundering around, not knowing where to turn, because I’d have had a plan. That’s what mentors help you to think about.
So along with being a huge fan of making mistakes, I’m a huge fan of having a mentor; and if you don’t have one, I urge you to find one.
And if that’s on your To Do list right now, here’s some things to think about:
1. Think about what you want from your mentor: what support, or guidance do you think you need? How much time do you want to spend on your mentoring relationship? And what characteristics should your mentor have?
2. Identify who you’d like to be your mentor - and ask them. Don’t be frightened to ask someone to mentor you. If you know who you want, and why you think they’d be the perfect person for you, ask away. Remember to be clear about what you want from them, and the outcomes you’re looking for.
3. Don’t just ask one person. If you’ve identified someone who you think would be your perfect mentor, it’s likely that a number of other people have done the same. If they say no, accept graciously and move on to the next potential mentor.
4. Go for an opposite. So here’s an observation: sometimes the people who have the most impact are those who know nothing about your industry, or your interests. They come at your challenges with a totally unique and fresh perspective, and can add huge amounts of value. I often ask, seemingly, random people for their views on something I’m working on; and I love the results.
5. Don’t stand still. The person who became your mentor last year won’t always be the right person for you as your business grows. It’s important to acknowledge that as your goals change, and your dreams grow, your mentoring requirements will too. Never be afraid to find new mentor to help you move your business to the next level.
And if finding a mentor isn’t on your To Do list right now? Put it at the top right now, and get searching.