It goes without saying that every entrepreneur, no matter their age, can always benefit from the expertise of a skilled and seasoned mentor. This is a person who's gone through the whole "been there, done that" type of thing. Furthermore, it's very important to realize that the right mentor for you is not always the most successful business person you know or can find. It's rarely ever this person unless you happen to be doing something very similar to what they are. The truth is really in their end result, and your intended end result. In other words, if you're creating a new type of shoe, the best mentor for you is someone who's successfully executed all the related tasks involved in designing, producing, and effectively selling shoes. If you intend to be an awesome shoe designer, a mentor who is the owner of a highly successful shoe line or store, really isn't the best fit possible for yourself.
1. Mentors should always be niche specific and almost always product or service specific.
All business people go through similar experiences. Everyone has to deal with accounting, payroll, or product manufacturing, but why settle for someone who has experience doing those things in a field of expertise other than your own? The best mentors are experience specific. If you're trying to become a professional speaker, your mentor had better be a professional speaker. Additionally, it helps if they're even catering to the same audience. Hopefully your topics are different though, otherwise they may not want to help you!
Don't settle for a family friend who says they can help you. If you're going to be successful, simply finding another successful person isn't enough. You need to find someone who has direct experience with the same aspects of running a business like your own – specifically, because they themselves have. Direct experience with the same niche, needed skills, or service will prove to be invaluable in the long run. When you have a mentor who already has gone through exactly what you need to do in order to become successful, many stressful mistakes and set backs can be reduced, if not avoided all together.
2. Use the tools at your disposal to identify potential mentors within your niche.
Learn your niche inside and out. This is something that you should already be doing anyways, after all, you can only be better than your competition if you know who's out there. It would be easy to go on and on about understanding the environment you're in, but principally, identify who's successful, as well as who isn't, and began studying the potential reasons for each on an individual basis until you can draw general conclusions.
Next, when you have identified key individuals who are really killing it out there start getting to know their services and products. The best mentor for you is not always the person who seems to be generating the most traffic or looks as if they have the most impressive product. The best mentor for you is the person who can package and sell their product or service the most effectively, with the best overall presentation to capture and convert customers. This cannot be stressed enough. Just because someone is selling 50k DVD's of "Lose 20 lb. in 7 days" per week, doesn't mean you can't learn from them however. In fact, if you happen to be looking to sell DVDs as well, just on another subject, they may be able to provide you with helpful advice on building email opt-ins as well as online marketing. A great mentor is someone who is actively doing what you want to be doing and doing it better than anyone else.
3. The way you approach a potential mentor makes all the difference.
If it's someone you don't know, start slow. Treat this as you would any relationship, friend or otherwise. Don't ask them to be your mentor on the first email!
1. Start by contacting them and explaining how you found their work, really find it Â helpful and valuable, then proceed to ask them if they would be willing to answer a question or two that you have. Make these easy to answer questions, but not stupid ones. Let them know you're a budding entrepreneur. Don't however, use the word budding…
2. If that works, thank them for the information and ask if they would mind if you contacted them again in the future if you had any follow up questions.
3. From there get yourself really organized. Know exactly where you are and where you need to take your business in order to grow it, make it profitable, etc.
4. Reach out to the individual asking them if they could take a short amount of time to discuss with you via Skype some of your business ideas. Tell him or her that you respect their time greatly, and that any moments they could spend offering their advice would greatly help you out.
5. Got the call? Great. Now, the close is the hardest part. The time from which you have that initial call to formalizing the mentoring relationship, can and does vary greatly. Build up the relationship, eventually if you're really serious about things, chances are the individual will see a similar quality in you that he or she saw in himself and be more than willing to help where they can.
Sometimes a formal client relationship is formed. This is usually where there is payment involved, or direct business coaching. You may or may not need and or benefit from this, so decide according to your level of commitment, and of course your budget. Watch out for anyone who wants to charge you right off the bat for answering easy questions, they're looking for money over genuinely helping people like yourself.
Michael Costigan speaks to teens and adults about effective communication so that they may make better informed decisions together. Read more about Michael here.