The Business Owner’s Guide To Finding a Mentor
Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor was Steve Jobs. Bill Gates’ mentor is Warren Buffett. Even Batman has Alfred helping him out.
So why do so many business owners and professionals shy away from having a mentor?
Richard Branson attributes much of his success with Virgin Airlines to his mentor, as he wrote in the British newspaper, “I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.”
A major reason entrepreneurs don’t get mentors is because they feel it is a sign of weakness, but this is a huge misconception.
Why We All Need Mentors
Being a business owner is hard enough as it is. If it were easy, everyone would be successful right? But what’s so hard about running a business that makes the failure rate so high?
If you peek around the web, you’ll find plenty of articles discussing various reasons: not a good product market fit, insufficient business model, weak unique selling point, etc.
Despite all these factors being true, I’d like to introduce a new reason why most businesses fail: they quit too early.
I see it all the time when people start an eCommerce business. The main reason they fail is because they quit after two months. Why? If you’re not surrounded by smart and supportive people, it’s likely that you’ll throw in the towel when things get tough.
But imagine what you could accomplish if none of the people around you let you fail. What if your friends and family held you accountable for every goal you set? Your chances of failure would plummet. Having a business mentor or coach can have the same powerful effect.
Ever since I was young, my uncle Chris always answered any of my questions about business. I didn’t realize it at the time, but even as a teenager, he acted as my business mentor. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized how unique my situation was. But not everyone has an uncle who can act as their business coach.
However, everyone needs a business mentor. Here are a few reasons why:
Accountability: Having a coach keeps you on track and makes you stay true to your word. When you set goals, your business coach will make sure you work towards them. Have you ever made a list of things you plan to do for the year only to forget about it a few months down the line? A coach is the best kind of accountability partner you can get.
Brainstorming Ideas: Sure, you must be smart in order to run a business, but no matter how many ideas you can come up with during a brainstorming session, you’re always going to benefit from having another brain in the room. Getting a different professional perspective will help build on your ideas as well as pinpoint possible holes that you are blinded by.
Guidance: Having a coach helps you move faster and more efficiently. When you’re working with someone who has more experience than you, you’ll save yourself a ton of time, money, and trouble than if you tried to do it yourself. Whatever hurdle it is that you are facing at any given moment, chances are someone else has been through it, too.
Most entrepreneurs will read this and agree, yet they still don’t have business coaches. Why? They think they don’t need one or they assume it’s a waste of time and money. Just because you don’t need a coach doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from it.
"Professional athletes rely on coaches, what makes business owners any different?
Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to find a business coach that’s right for you. I truly hope it helps you find the mentor that helps you take your business to the next level.
Step One: Define Your Goals
In order to find a business coach that is going to help you, you first need to figure out what it is you want. Are you looking for rapid growth? More free time? Do you want to build a specific skill? If you don’t know what you want in business and life, then it will be difficult to find a coach that can help you.
Before you start looking for a coach, answer the following questions:
What's your long-term vision? What does your idea of success look like? What’s your main objective? Is it to be financially independent? Is it to do something meaningful? Have time for your family? Am I willing to pay for a coach who will help me get results faster?
Answering these types of questions is only a start. You may need to take some time to think about what you want, but the more you know, the easier it will be to find a coach who can help.
Step Two: Ask Yourself, “What Am I Looking For”?
Next, start thinking about exactly what you want in a mentor. Do you want someone that will be a good listener? Do you want someone with a specific skillset or experience?
Think about your weaknesses and how a coach could help. Make a list of qualities that you want your coach to have. Then, split this list up into wants as needs. As much as it would be great to find a coach with every single quality you wrote down, you’ll have to make some compromises because no one is perfect.
Step Three: How To Find Your Coach
Now that you’ve identified what you need, it’s time to go searching. Here’s how I recommend going about this process.
Phase 1: Write out a list of people you admire who you personally already know. This can be your friends, family members (remember, my uncle is my mentor), business associates, coworkers, colleagues, or anyone else you’ve interacted with before.
If you have a big network to start from, I recommend finding someone that you already know. It’ll be quicker. But I understand that not everyone has a giant network to begin with, so if this doesn’t bring you any luck, continue on to phase 2….
Phase 2: Write out a list of people you admire you who don’t personally know yet. These are your heroes and role models, the people you look up to in your industry or city, the people you follow on social media or anyone else who you would love to gain insight from.
These can be bloggers, business owners, or members of your community. Think about your competitors and other people in your industry. If you’ve gone through phase 1 and 2 and still don’t have any good prospects, then you’ll probably have to pay. Start by asking around your network for someone who does this for a living and go from there.
Phase 3: Write out your goals, expectations, and what you can offer in return. It’s crucial that you do this after already going through step one and two so you know what you want, what you need help with, and what you’re hoping to get from your mentor at this time.
It’s also important to know what you can offer in return: money, connections, your time, free services, etc. (free coffee doesn’t count). Think about what kind of ways it will help your mentor and be prepared to be upfront about it. Mentors learn a ton by having mentorees.
They can build leadership and coaching skills, they can leave behind a legacy by passing on their business advice. And believe it or not, a lot of people take pride in helping and playing a role in their success.
Phase 4: Start reaching out to people on both lists. For list #1 of people that you know, send a friendly email/message telling them that you admire them and that you’d like to learn from them. Ideally, you want to start with a short email and ask to schedule a phone call. Then, once you’re on the phone call you can discuss the details. If you are in the same area, try to meet face-to-face. The more personal the better.
HOW TO START
YOUR OWN BUSINESS
WITHOUT PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCE
Writing cold emails is a common way to find a business mentor. Be sure to keep your emails short and to the point. Try to add value as well.
For list #2, you’re going to need to put in a little extra effort. Since these people don’t know you, you’ll have to pitch yourself a little more. You don’t need to brag a ton, but make it clear to this person why it’s worth their time to help you.
Maybe you don’t think you have a lot to offer, but that’s okay. Simply being extremely motivated can be enough to get people to want to help you.
"If someone gets the sense that you are a passionate business owner with a big vision, they’ll want to help."
But if you come off as lazy and scared, I wouldn’t count on it.
Start with a cold email introducing yourself and explaining your situation. Since you are reaching out to someone who doesn’t know you, I would expect to pay money for anyone on your list #2.
This last step might seem a bit intimidating, but don’t let it get to you. Remember that the worst thing that can happen is that they say no. If they all say no, you’ll be in the same situation you are now, so you have nothing to lose!
Also, keep in mind that most people love helping others and sharing their insight and experiences. So think of it this way, you are doing them a favor by reaching out and asking for help!
Here’s an example of an email you might send to someone on list #2.
Subject line: Help a passionate business owner?
“Hi (first name),
My name is Anton Kraly, and I’m the founder of Drop Ship Lifestyle, an online community where we teach people how to start their own online eCommerce store.
I’ve been following your blog, ________, for the last two years, and I absolutely love it. My favorite post was the one about _______, I still revisit it from time to time and share it with my friends!
I noticed that you only receive 5% of your traffic from Facebook, is there a reason you haven’t taken advantage of using their ad platform?
I know you have a huge audience, and if you implement X or Y, I’m sure you’d see some ROI immediately. Here’s a video I recorded to explain in more detail: (Link).
Anyway, my business has been growing rapidly for the last three years, but I’ve been struggling with ______ and _______. I truly think I could benefit from having a business coach, and I was wondering if you were interested.
I’d be honored to work with you. I promise you won’t find another business owner with a better work ethic than myself.
With you as my business coach, I’m sure I could truly achieve ________. In return, I’m sure I can help you get better results from Facebook
I’d love to schedule a call and talk about this more.
I’m looking forward to your response,
Okay, so this is not the perfect cold email, but I hope it shows you where you can get started (to be honest, I think it's too long).
Notice how I introduced myself right away and defined what my business does. Then, I made it clear that I knew who he/she is and by noting that I read the blog.
Next, I provided value and tried to help them right off the bat, and as I brought up mentorship, I talked about how they can benefit.
Your email doesn’t have to look like this but make sure you include something about why you are coachable.
Once you’ve contacted a few potential candidates, it’s time….
Step Four: Schedule Your First Meeting
Once you’ve found a few possible mentors, it’s time to meet with them and discuss the details. It’s important to make your first conversation as honest, authentic, and comfortable as possible.
Meet a café or a restaurant, as long as it’s somewhere you feel cozy. If you don’t live in the same city, then schedule a phone call. If you’re not paying for a coach, then make sure to make it as easy as possible for the other person.
Depending on their scheduling and availability, you may have to pay for the first meeting, but it should give you an excellent idea of what it would be like working with this person, so it’s worth it.
Again, try to schedule a face-to-face meeting if you can, but if you’re trying to work with someone far away, a video call can suffice.
If you are meeting with someone that you already know, you don’t necessarily need to mention up front that you want them to be your mentor or coach. Assuming you have met before, it’s okay to catch up for coffee and see how that goes. Then, at the end of your first meeting (interview), if it seems to have gone well, you can bring up the idea of speaking again sometime in the future.
Over time, if they continue to seem receptive and willing to help you, you can bring up the idea of a more formal mentoring relationship with more specific parameters and goals. Just be careful not to rush things, as this may take time.
WARNING: If their time's too precious, it won't work. You want to find someone who is relatively easy to get a hold of and can spare fifteen minutes every now and then.
Step Five: Get To Know Each Other
When you meet with your prospective mentors, you’ll get a good feel of what it would be like working together. Remember that it’s a two-way street, so have an honest discussion about your goals, expectations, needs, etc in order to see if it’s a good fit.
If it’s someone that you already know and have met with before, don’t treat this meeting any differently. Catch up, ask about their business and engage in a typical conversation.
If this coach charges you for the first meeting, you absolutely want to make sure that you get your money's worth, so don’t be shy! Ask questions, bring up your concerns, and open up.
Make sure you don’t try to choose a mentor overnight. Finding the right person at the right time may take a few weeks or months and that’s okay. You don’t want to rush into it with the wrong person.
If things go well, be honest and say you loved meeting and you hope that you can discuss business together on a regular schedule.
Step Six: Nourish The Relationship
After you’ve found the mentor you want to work with, it’s time to develop a consistent meeting schedule. If you’ve reached out to dozens of people along the way, you may find that you have several options to choose from. That’s a good thing.
But as you narrow your choices down, you want to choose the people that you connect with easily. As you do so, continue investing in those relationships and scale back the others.
Bear in mind that it may be beneficial to have more than one mentor. If you are worried that you may take up too much of your mentor's time then multiple mentors may be a good solution. Plus, an advantage of having multiple mentors is that you can get a lot of different points of view.
If you found a paid coach, it’s probably best to stick with him/her. But it’s okay to bounce around and have different coaches for different needs. At this point, you’ll know what feels right and who helps you the most. A good coach leaves you walking away confident and motivated after every encounter, so if you find someone who helps you do that, then he/she is a keeper.
Step Seven: Take Action and Grow Together
Once you’ve found your business mentor, it’s time to implement their advice and watch your business grow. If you’re paying someone to help you and you’re not following through then it’s just a waste of time and money, so make sure you take action. Showing up is not enough.
If you work with a coach or mentor for a while and you notice that you’re not making progress, then you need to take a step back and decide why it’s not working. Is it you or your mentor? Be sure to be honest as well, if something's not going well, make sure to let him/her know.
Having someone there to hold you accountable is magical. It can mean the difference between success and failure. That’s why we have our own DSL coaching program within the community. Members who are looking for additional help can choose from a variety of coaches who will then help guide them to success.
At the end of the day, there’s really no downside to having a mentor or a coach. Sure, it may cost money. But if you are able to find someone who will do it for free, it will still end up helping you a lot in the long run.
Now, I want to know what you think. Do you have a business coach or a mentor? Why or why not? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are!