Question: How can I find a mentor for my small business or startup?
Hire an Executive Coach
"I think some entrepreneurs think of a mentor as a knight in shining armor, someone who will help guide their every move and meet regularly to dish savvy advice. Yes, some entrepreneurs do get this kind of mentorship. Other times, what you really need is to hire an executive coach. This person becomes an extension of your team and can help you reach goals and become a better business owner."
Match Them to Your Personal Goals
"The mentor that's best for you has been there, done that. Be very careful to make sure they have actually achieved the personal big-picture goals you set for yourself. For example, even if they have a seven-figure business, is it the type of business model you also want with 14-hour workdays, public speaking engagements, etc.? Consider these points before reaching out."
Reach Out to Industry Experts at Conferences
"I've found some amazing experts by reaching out to speakers at conferences. At industry shows, I make it a point to go up to successful individuals that I admire and connect with them. If there's synergy, I will ask if they'll have coffee or dinner, and if that goes well, I'd ask if they'd be willing to occasionally help by answering questions and offering guidance. Most are happy to do so!"
Check Your Alumni Network
"A great place to start a search for a mentor is in your alumni network. When I lived in China, my mentor was also a USC alum, and we met at a Trojan event. There's an extra bond when you are from the same school, and I think there's a strong willingness on the part of the mentor to share knowledge with a new graduate or young founder. Attend a chapter event or find them on LinkedIn."
"Ask your closest 'business' friends who they would recommend. See if they know anyone in their network who might be relevant. Finding a strong mentor is not an easy task, so filtering the list by listening to close friends is certainly helpful."
"Your network is your net worth, so commit to attending seminars, expos and conventions. Find someone that you want to connect with and start asking them questions. If they are difficult to get a hold of, just keep contacting them in a professional and polite way. You can only get so many 'no's' before you get a 'yes.' This strategy has helped me get my first mentor who was running a $50 million business at the time."
Tell Your Story
"I've found that the more I tell our story, the more opportunities for mentorship, funding and business deals seem to appear out of nowhere. When people are inspired by a story or a purpose, they often feel a desire to be involved. One of my college professors founded several large companies, and I didn't even know it until years later. He's now my closest mentor. Tell your story!"
Get in Touch With Entrepreneur Organizations
"There are organizations seeking to equip and empower entrepreneurs, so I’d recommend contacting them and attending networking events, mentoring programs, etc. Go to as many events as you can, talk with many people and see which organization or initiative could fit your needs."
Take Classes and Connect With the Teacher
"Take an in-person or online class relevant to your small business or startup, and then make it a point to connect with your teacher afterward. Ask a question and then ask for their contact information so you can follow up. Then set up a lunch or coffee over the next few weeks. Over time, you can form very strong relationships this way without ever formally asking someone to be a 'mentor.'"
Work Out of a Local Co-Working Space
"Building strong relationships with others requires proximity, and co-working spaces attract like-minded people in high-density clusters. Your skills will be helpful to others, and peer-to-peer mentoring with other innovators is invaluable."
Work for Your Desired Mentor
"One of the best ways to learn is by osmosis (i.e., picking up habits, methods and mindset from the people you work around). If you aspire to get a celebrity mentor like a Bill Gates or Mark Cuban, remember that this person is very busy. If you want someone of that caliber, find a way to make yourself useful by working in his or her organization and building a relationship there."