I’m going to assume you have chosen to get a business mentor to help keep you accountable for success (smart move!) But what steps can you follow to choose the right person?
It’s not as easy as it might seem. After all, this person has to understand you but also hold you accountable. They need to be friendly, but not your friend. They need to help you effectively work on your business, but not work in your business.
However, you might need a coach or a consultant rather than a mentor. The difference can be subtle, but crucial. Check out my post for more info on the difference between a business mentor, a coach, or a consultant for more on this.
So here’s my 3 Simple Steps to choose your business mentor:
Step 1: Be Prepared
Preparation is not just for Boy Scouts – preparation in choosing your Business mentor is key.
Understand why you want a mentor.
The first time you ask this question, the answer may seem obvious to you. If so, great. Now, ask yourself this same question a second time, and then a third. This technique is an excellent way of understanding your true motives for needing a mentor. In turn, this will help you get the best value out of your mentor.
As an example answer, the first time you answer this, you might say: ‘I want a mentor to help me make the best choices for my business’.
OK, a good start, but why and how?
Example answer, second time: “I want to grow my business but it’s hard to find good people to work with. I’m not sure exactly where to start though.”
Ask yourself one more time, why do I want a business mentor?: “I want a mentor to help me identify the key aspects of my business that I can delegate, then hold me accountable to my plan for doing this over the next six months. My mentor will understand my business drivers but also empathize with the difficulties I face is letting go to a degree.”
The better you can know and express your motives, the more time you can save in briefing your mentor.
Understand your working rhythm:
Knowing what you want from your mentor is one thing. Deciding how you would like to work together is another. For example, will weekly sessions be right or too frequent? Would monthly sessions be too far apart?
Often I will have a ‘sprint’ at the start of an engagement where we do weekly sessions for the first two months, then monthly for the rest of the time.
Decide on your budget:
At least have a range of what you can afford in mind. I get it, money is often tight, especially if you are in a start-up. And sure, if your potential mentor offers a freebie at the start – take it! However, trying to save money by getting a cheap mentor is a false economy. Paying a fair price ensures you value the advice and make sure that the mentor delivers value too.
But given that, according to the Wall Street Journal, more than half of businesses fail within five years, having a mentor who can potentially help you avoid that fate is a smart insurance policy.
A good rule of thumb: expect to spend 5% of your turnover on professional services, which include mentors, book-keepers, lawyers.
Preparation is not just for the Boy Scouts. Preparation in choosing your Business Mentor is key.
Step 2: Do this when choosing a business mentor:
Decide what attributes they need to have.
Do you need someone with specific technical’ ability? Or are you looking for overall business ‘savvy’?
The issues that Business Mentors deal with are usually more strategic and so don’t require specific technical knowledge, but it can help. Still, if a prospective Mentor has had a career in large corporations and you run a small business, there might be gaps in understanding. Make a list of the skills and experience your perfect mentor would have and use this as a checklist when making your selection.
Get a pool of three candidates
It’s a good idea in business to never choose from a selection pool of one. Try and meet at least three potential mentors before you decide. I recommend starting with searching online services – for example, Growth Mentor or ask on Reddit.
Then, ask a few business-people who you admire who their mentor is. This is often the best recommendation (I get 90% of my work through referral).
Ask about their business successes – and failures
There are a lot of so-called mentors out there that talk a good game. But have they achieved anything themselves in the past? The whole point of a mentor is to learn from their experiences. No-one knows what winning is like except a winner.
Equally though, you can’t get your toes a little wet without making mistakes. It’s pretty good to have a mentor who has made a lot of mistakes because it means there is more for you to learn from!
Step 3: Don’t do these things when choosing a business mentor!
Pay by the hour
Yes, you can meet by the hour but don’t pay by the hour. You want to have a relationship with your mentor. Nothing stifles a relationship like the knowledge that the meter starts as soon as you call her for help on an issue. Rather, see if you can negotiate a price per month. This can include several formal meetings but also the ability for you to contact them for help at any time.
Don’t be vague:
Bottom line: you want to be the sort of a client a really good mentor would want to work with. Define exactly what success looks like for you, as a result of having a mentor. Decide how long you would like the initial period of engagement will be. This means that you will get the best out of your mentor.
As a mentor, I promise you that we love it when a client says things like:
‘I’d like to work with you for three months to improve my cash-flow and make some tough decisions to increase my product margins.”
“I have been working 50 hours a week, sales are up but I just don’t seem to see any improvement in my bank account. I can’t go on like this forever
But we silently groan inside when we hear:
“I think I need a mentor, would you mentor me?”
Life is too short to be vague.
Don’t ask a friend to mentor you
It might seem like the easy solution – but don’t. Just don’t. Sometimes, a mentor has to show some tough love in a way that a friend may not. Combining the two roles is just asking for trouble.
A Business Mentor is an important choice
If you follow these 3 Simple Steps to choose a business mentor, then you are not only ahead of the completion, you will also enjoy the journey.
Choosing a business mentor is an important decision, but one which will help you maximize your success. Want to know more? Contact me today.