"What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows." -- Paulo Coehlo, The Witch of Portebello
If you're an entrepreneur with dreams of making it big, the smartest move you can make is finding a mentor. Obtaining the right mentor is like choosing the perfect pair of rollerblades -- once you find the best fit, they offer you quality support and comfort when skating on unpredictable terrain.
Before searching for a mentor, be absolutely clear on the type of individual you want to attract into your life. Create a wish list of knowledge and skills this person should have. In addition, form a list of questions for your ideal mentor -- be specific on what you want to gain from the relationship.
When I was searching for a mentor, it was vital this person possessed extensive knowledge about scaling a business, and had a genuine concern for my personal development. I was also looking for a dedicated advisor, not a quick one-time conversation over lunch.
The perfect mentor cuts the learning curve
Experience is the greatest teacher, but also the most unforgiving. Someone that's already charted a course on the mercurial landscape of entrepreneurship is the best possible guide for your journey. One of my mentors, Jonathan Smith, grew his start-up from $500K to 15-million within five years. Because of Jonathan's considerable scaling up experience, I was certain he was the perfect entrepreneur to emulate.
Mentoring sessions with Jonathan occurred bi-weekly over breakfast. We used our discussion to develop a task list of 5-10 items that were to be completed by the next session. This proved to be an effective method for accelerating my growth. It held me accountable and served as a measuring stick for progress. As a result of absorbing and applying Jonathan's knowledge, the learning curve was sliced in half and my revenue more than tripled over a six-month period.
Asking questions and listening are the keys to learning. There are times when your mentor will provide advice you disagree with, but as a mentee it's crucial to resist the urge to respond in a defensive manner. You've entrusted your mentor to provide objective practical feedback, so you must be sincerely willing to hear the advice -- even if you later decide not to follow it. Remember, your mentor wants to help you and has your best interest at heart.
It's not what you know, it's who you know
The popular saying it's not what you know, it's who you know rings true when it comes to forming new business relationships. Great business mentors are seasoned entrepreneurs with the capacity to vastly expand your network.
My mentor bridged the gap to my target market. Since the focus of my company is working with CxOs, he connected me with senior-level executives -- some of whom later became mentors, clients, and brand advocates that plugged me into their respective networks and generously referred more business my way. It was a domino effect -- and without Jonathan as a catalyst, I would not have reached this stage in my journey as quickly.
A great mentor is the Powerball of business. My mentors serve as role models, coaches, and advisors -- copiously yielding invaluable insight. If your network determines your net-worth, then I've hit the Jackpot.