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How mentors can help you grow your business

You’ve got the skills, you’ve got the ideas, you’re ready to grow- and you’re stuck. Sometimes the best way forward is to reach out to someone who’s been where you are and ask them for advice.

That’s where mentors come in: people who are experienced in entrepreneurship and have knowledge which could benefit you build your business. But how do you reach out? How can you find and ask someone -who’s likely very busy- to help you with your online business?

1. Find the right person.

When it comes to finding someone to help you grow you’ll need to take a few things into consideration. Firstly, what you need. What are you looking for? Someone to help you refine ideas, someone who can guide you along certain processes, someone who has accomplished something you’re hoping to do? Have in mind exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish.

And then focus on who will be the best fit. Someone who is very high profile likely will have too much on their plate already (you should aim to find someone just a few steps or levels above you), and you’ll need someone who communicates in the same way you do- if you’re offended by blunt truth, steer clear of people with a reputation for it.

Once you know what and who you’re looking for you can begin reaching out to industry-specific associations which can help connect you with a suitable person. Or you can reach out to someone directly by yourself.

2. Ask the right way.

Keep in mind that the person you’re reaching out to, through an association or independently, likely doesn’t know who you are. Simply contacting them and asking them straight out to mentor you can be a little overwhelming for them- they may simply say no if they’re busy at that moment.

Sometimes the best way forward is to reach out to someone who’s been where you are and ask them for advice.

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Instead, let them know that you admire their accomplishments and achievements and ask them if they’d be interested in a phone call or meeting so you can ask them advice. One conversation is much less of a demand than a mentor, so they’re more likely to say yes this way.

Then, if you have a positive experience and believe that they’re a good fit, you can ask them if they’d be interested in meeting up on a regular basis. Don’t expect this to be weekly: you won’t have valid new questions that often and they won’t have time. Instead, ask to meet quarterly or every few months.

If you’re reaching out to someone who already knows you you can be more transparent in your wishes, so long as you make it clear what you’re looking for. It’s important to let potential mentors know exactly what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship, and how often and when you’d like to meet.

3. Be fair to them.

If you’d like to be mentored by someone, it’s likely they’re successful. That means they have their own things going on, and won’t be available at your beck and call to answer questions. Understand that they are doing you a favour, and you need to be fair, professional and thankful in response.

It’s important to stay amicable. Even if a potential mentor rejects you, stay courteous- it could be that they’ll have more time or flexibility down the track, so don’t burn any bridges.

If they do say yes, thank them and promptly organize your first meeting so that you can get the ball rolling. It’s best to be relatively low-key about someone’s decision to mentor you: posting all over social media, bragging online or sending extravagant thank you gifts can make people uneasy. Instead, give them a warm thank you and consider sending them flowers or a handwritten note. Let them know that you appreciate their time, but don’t go over the top.

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As entrepreneurs the support of our peers and mentors is invaluable. We work in a unique environment, and owning our own businesses means that we often don’t have the resources to rely on which other larger businesses do. Seeking and gaining a mentor can be a huge accomplishment and can really help you learn the ropes of business ownership.

Lena Klein

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