fm Entrepreneur.com 23 July 15 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Do you have a Mentor yet? For many Startups, the first step to giving their Business a much-needed boost is admitting that they could use one. This isn’t always an easy step; after all, a Mentor relationship may seem soft & mushy compared to hard-job skills.
The Data speaks for itself. MicroMentor, a UK-based organization which connects entrepreneurs with experts in their field, found that where leaders were Mentored, revenues increased by a staggering 83 %. In fact, most successful business people have had a Mentor. Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg & Bill Gates are just some of the ultra-successful entrepreneurs who reaped and now espouse the benefits of having wise counsel.
So, what makes a great Mentor? Ideally, he or she has achieved the things that you’re trying to achieve. Personality fit is important, too, as your Mentor has to be someone with whom you can socialize with. Established trust is a must here. At some point, you will be asking tricky (& fairly presumptuous) questions, and you’ll need a Mentor who can dish out “tough love” when it’s needed. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can connect with the perfect Mentor and take your career to the next level.
1. Start with whom you know. Networking is tough. However, a few minutes a week, is all it takes to make your professional network that much more useful. Start by evaluating the people you know: LinkedIn, Phone contacts, Facebook friends, former bosses, Twitter. Dig deep, do some research, and see if your existing contacts fit the Mentoring profile. If you don’t know any would-be Mentors, start forging new connections through local business associations, platforms & your local Chamber of Commerce. Meet speakers at local networking events and introduce yourself.
2. Pay $$$ (if you have to). The 1st option is to pay for consulting. I once spent money on business advisors that actually wound up being long-term friends. Today, they are happy to dish out Mentoring advice for free. The 2nd option is to give Equity in your Company.
3. Get an Incubator. One service you don’t pay for, at least not directly, is the business incubator. Incubators are organizations geared toward jump-starting the growth of startups. Some, like 500 & Y-Combinator are backed by VCs, with potential funding to invest. Others, like CTnext, are backed by local government or local businesses. Either way, you’ll get access to a wide variety of Mentorship, Coaching & Networking connections – as well as access to seed money & professional services. The National Business Mentor Association website lets you search for Incubators by country & state.
4. Check out online “Dating” (for business) Matching agencies will connect you with a well-suited Mentor, sometimes for free, other times in exchange for a monthly fee. The result is not unlike online dating; most paid-for services promise to personally match Mentor & Mentee based on specific criteria. Theoretically, you’ll get a Mentor with the credentials & bandwidth you need. On the downside, you won’t be able to hand-pick your Mentor, and all that time you’re buying may be buried in the terms & conditions. Before you buy, shop around and know what you’re signing up for.
5. Criteria for your “perfect “match.” Your short-list will help you choose the right Mentor for your business. But how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? Five key points that worked for me:
· Experience: your Mentor should possess a great track record and the specific skills you seek.
· Communication: Just because someone is successful, doesn’t mean he or she has the skills necessary to reflect on the journey & share valuable insights. You need a Mentor who will truly listen to & understand, the issues you face – all while acknowledging his or her own personal mistakes & vulnerabilities.
· Rapport: You don’t have to like each other, but you do have to respect each other enough to get along. Don’t be afraid of gray hairs. Mentors in the twilight of their careers understand the blood, sweat & tears they themselves invested to succeed. They usually have the appetite for more, via their support of the next generation of entrepreneurs.
· Tuff love: The last thing you need is to be spoon fed. A great Mentor will give you the straight talk you need to grow.
· Connections: While you shouldn’t expect your Mentor to hand over contacts, the chance that your Mentor relationship will help you tap into a respected network may well open doors as you move your business forward.
6. Make a Business Case for being Mentored. Mentoring isn’t about “me, me, me.” It’s important that your would-be Mentor also receive something positive from the experience. Make a case for why he or she should help you, and sell that proposition — whether your pitch rests on the possibility of raising the Mentor’s own profile, building his or her network or helping him or her feel gratified about “paying it forward.”
7. Be a “great” Mentee. Nothing breaks a great Mentoring relationship faster than a Mentee who wastes a Mentor’s precious time. Here is my advice on how to become someone your Mentor wants to counsel:
· Be eager to learn, and committed to modifying your approach. Resist the knee-jerk urge to defend your decisions.
· Get it done. If your Mentor advises you to do something, do it and update your Mentor on your progress. If you don’t follow the advice, explain why.
· Have frequent contact. Make regular calls, send well-crafted Emails & Follow-up on Action Plans. The ball is s in your court, so be an active participant in the process. Don’t expect a Mentor to do hardly any of the work.
· Give & then give some more. Share your Mentor’s updates, Comment on blog posts & Refer new business. Do whatever you can, to express gratitude for his or her counsel.
8. Know when to say Goodbye. At some point, your Mentorship, will, as mine did, come to an end. This is a healthy and natural part of the process. Don’t fear it or extend the Mentor relationship for longer than necessary. Saying goodbye will bring closure and signal that the relationship is no longer professional, but now a personal friendship.
Conclusion. With the right Mentor, the world can be your oyster. Be pre-active about what you want from the relationship, keep an open mind and accept criticism. You’ll be thankful you did.
Comments: Do you have any Tips on finding & working with a Mentor?