One of the most exciting moments in an entrepreneur’s journey with their business is the moment when an individual they look up to agrees to become their mentor. This is often a pivotal turning point for a mentee. A great mentor listens, shares perspective they have gained from their own experiences (good and bad), and nurtures you to become successful by providing access to resources and networks that will aid the mentee’s small business.
You might be a little nervous the first time you meet with a mentor. That’s completely understandable! You’ll be working together for awhile and seeking their feedback on a regular basis. The best thing to do before meeting up is to go in fully prepared. Pull together a strategy that answers the following questions to make the most of your mentee-mentor relationship together.
Why do you want to work with this mentor?
I mentioned earlier that many mentees reach out to mentors that they admire and respect. Why else do you want to work with them? Do you admire their career trajectory and want to emulate certain aspects of what they have done for your own entrepreneurial path? Are they knowledgeable in your industry? Have they proven to be eloquent thought leaders? Understand your “why” for working together. Then, write down set goals you would like to establish in a mentee-mentor relationship. What you would like them to teach you? What you hope to learn from your mentor?
What do I — and my business — need out of this relationship?
Think honestly and objectively when answering this question. Where do you want to go next? Consider the stage your business is in and how a mentor’s influence can be key to its growth. If you know you have certain strengths and weaknesses, think about how a mentor may guide you towards amplifying areas of ROI and how to work on the weaker spots.
Then, consider your own personal needs. Do you want a mentor who will champion you, offer their own feedback, or push you to go outside of your comfort zone? Maybe it’s all of the above! Start by defining a specific challenge or barrier your business is facing and take it from there with your mentor.
Will my mentor have time for me?
Mentorship is a time-consuming, ongoing process for both the mentee and the mentor. The mentor you work with should be reliable to reach out to with questions or ideas. However, that kind of reliability should also be within reason. Texting your mentor at 3 AM and expecting an immediate response isn’t ideal for your relationship together.
Create a schedule that works for both parties before you begin working together. Remember that your mentor’s time is valuable, as is your own. If there are any specific days or times that do not work for one (or both) individuals, make a note of that. Respect those limits. Both the mentee and mentor should be able to set aside enough time on a regular basis to thoroughly communicate.
Can I have multiple mentors?
This is a question that is not addressed often enough. Entrepreneurs may have more than one mentor. In fact, it’s often best that mentees have multiple mentors throughout their startup’s life cycle.
Having several mentors provides mentees with a diverse sounding board. Each individual may teach you as much as they are able. However, as your business grows, so will its increased expectations, challenges, risks, and successes. Having multiple mentors at various stages in business will help provide the tools and knowledge necessary to take those next steps forward. Eventually, you may even find that you graduate from being a mentee to acting as a mentor for the next generation of entrepreneurs.