Why your firm needs a a well-informed mentor

FINDING a mentor is one of the most important things to establish when you start a business. Good accounts and quality market research have their place, but time and again successful entrepreneurs credit the presence of a trusty confidante or adviser as the root of their success. Many are lucky enough to already have expert support, but what about those entrepreneurs who don’t? How do you go about picking up a mentor?

If you think this sounds a little like dating, you aren’t far wrong. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Julie Meyer says that finding a mentor is like “falling in love.” And just like dating there are ways to increase your likelihood of meeting that special someone. Here are our top tips for attracting a business tutor.

There seem to be three tactics for doing this: bold, slow and sly. Much like your method of romancing, different tactics should be deployed at different times – a lot, of course, depends on your style and the situation. After all, Meyers says: “You’re looking for someone you click with,” so you know when you’ve found the one.

The bold approach is simply a matter of popping the question: “Will you be my mentor?” It sounds scary but it could do the trick. Entrepreneur and networking queen Carol Stone encourages you to do so: “Don’t worry about being rejected, most people will be very flattered and will probably suggest other people to you if they are too busy to help.”

The slow (and more natural) approach is to try to spend more time with them. Meyer says: “Just be natural and likeable. Don’t overpower them with all your problems straight away – it’ll freak them out. You can’t engineer these things too much.”

The sly approach is to lure them in with a flattering gesture such as asking them to be on your company’s advisory board or to become your chairman. After all, you are more likely to foster that confidante relationship if you see them more often and they understand your business.

Don’t rush into a mentor-mentee relationship, Stone warns: “You’ve got to find someone who has the same beliefs and passion. The relationship won’t be fruitful unless you really see eye-to-eye.”

Unlike romantic relationships, there’s no need to be monogamous. Rupert Lee-Browne, the entrepreneur behind Caxton FX, says: “You can have more than one person advising and supporting you. People have different strengths in different areas. Not to mention, you need different advisers at different stages of your business. At the beginning you need basic advice about things like where to find a good accountant. When your business is growing you need more subtle and sophisticated advice about the direction of your business.”

Now you know what to do, the question is: where do you find one? If you haven’t got someone in mind, keeping your eye out at conferences and networking events is probably the best approach. In fact, Stone and Meyer’s companies The Stone Club and Entrepreneur Country respectively offer networking events and ways for industry leaders to meet each other. Check out www.yougovstone.com/content/the-stone-club and www.entrepreneurcountry.net for more information. Happy hunting!