The How, Why & When To Help You Choose The Right Business Mentor

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

With the popularity of social media channels Twitter and Facebook, mentors are even more accessible where they may not have been before. Today I can get a response to my comments on twitter from my mentors like Sir Richard Branson, Lisa Barone, Mike Rhodes or Rae Hoffman where only a few years ago they just weren’t accessible at all to the larger populous. Because of the easy of access it’s more important today to choose your business mentors wisely.

With Mentors like these who can share their insight with you you need to start classifying each to ensure your current ‘information feed’ is relevant to your business today and for the future. Without some way of classifying input you could start practising antiquated methods that are no longer relevant.

A number of years ago I read ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch which was quite inspirational at the time I read it. Jack gave a lot of his insight into management and created a roadmap for young managers which could be adopted and tested themselves. I happened to be one of those young managers who did exactly that.

Over a twelve month period Jack was my primary mentor and I adopted a number of his methodologies for myself. Over time I grew to realise that his methods weren’t always best for me, and I modified them to suit myself, my personality and to my business. ‘Winning’ became a launching pad for my businesses but now I no longer think it’s secrets are relevant to me for a number of reasons;

  • I now know what I know
  • I have better systems in place
  • I’ve adopted my own style which produces greater results
  • My current mentors now add more value

I encourage all business owners to keep a learning disposition as you should never stop growing personally and professionally. If we likened ourselves to a young tree or vine it’s easy to visualise how we can be trained to grow in certain directions. Being tethered to a stake and directed by wire frames is ok if you trust your mentor has a green thumb, but you could be growing in all the wrong ways if not guided properly.

So what kind of mentors are there?

Those that have done it – learn from mentors who will teach you ‘how’

  • If you’re new in business then following a tested model will provide you some measure of safety – for a large majority of us this is how we learn. Seeing an example and reproducing it is a valid form of learning and a good foundation for new business.
  • Eg; Jack Welch will show you how he grew GE and his management team

Those that are doing it – learn from mentors that teach you ‘why’

  • Once you’ve got your feet wet you need to start to focus on the why. Understanding why business works the way it does is critical for you to gain more market share and to begin to innovate. It’s rare to find good mentors here as they’re often concerned with people stealing ideas, but there’s a new breed of mentors that have an ‘open source’ philosophy – and they’re great to tap into.
  • Eg; Neil Patel can help you understand ‘why’ SEO works

Those that predict it – learn from mentors that teach you the ‘when’

  • It’s difficult to keep your finger on the pulse all the time and having mentors that are not only up to date and current, but visionaries, is critical for you as a business owner to see new opportunities. If you’re not innovating, you’re stagnating.
  • Trust me on this. My primary business is in a market where stagnating followers blindly make the same mistakes as others that it’s almost embarrassing. Following the blind will result in both of you falling into a ditch. The good news? If you’re leading then you can easily capture market share before anyone realises what the hell you just did.
  • Eg: Seth Godin who is one of my favorite visionaries has his finger on the pulse and beyond. Tap into Seth’s brain and you’re opening yourself up for future success.

The three mentor classifications above should also reflect your own development in business. Knowing who you are and what you’re capable of is key to knowing which mentors you should pursue and listen to right now.