A mentor is more than just some person to talk shop with. A mentor is a confidant, supporter, and sounding board for new business ideas and solutions to issues. When looking for a mentor, consider the following:
- Find Someone You Trust
This is key. Just because someone has the credentials, background, or experience to be your mentor doesn’t mean they’re the best person for the job. Trust is huge because like it or not, your emotions are tied to your business. Choose a person who is always negative or someone who is rarely available when you need them and you may find yourself questioning business decisions and even your own skills.
Mentors, like everyone else, have personality flaws. But if you don’t trust that person with business secrets, or you find they take a negative approach to their own business operations, then you should keep looking until you find someone who is honest, fair, and (mostly) positive.
- Close is Sometimes Too Close
Choosing your best friend, parent, sibling, or spouse as your mentor may not always be the best choice. People who are this close to you bring a lot more emotional baggage than an old boss, former coworker or classmate. Also, mentors should remain objective when trying to work through business problems with you. Mentors should listen, offer practical advice, and have similar stories to help you, not offer psychological counseling or fashion advice.
New business owners, especially early on, have many obstacles to overcome. Mentors who have been through it won’t feel pressured to solve every problem you have – unlike a close friend, family member, or spouse. Don’t place unnecessary burdens on those closest to you – they will take it personally which could jeopardize your relationship.
- Consider Multiple Mentors
Having more than one mentor can help you see things from various perspectives. There are many successful people out there with very different approaches to business planning and overcoming problems. If you’re lucky enough to find two or more people to confide in, celebrate that and communicate with these people often.
Pay It Forward – Become a Mentor
Over time, you may become a mentor for a young businessperson. Take this seriously. Not only can you now provide guidance and sympathetic ear, you can also make a real impact in another person’s life – just like your mentor did for you. Embrace the time you have to give to others by mentoring one-on-one, joining a networking group, teaching workshops, or writing about your experiences.