How to find and approach the right business mentor

8th October 2019

Two people have a cup of coffee in a business mentor meeting.

Why do I need a mentor?

When thinking about getting a business mentor, it’s critical to consider what purpose they will serve in your journey as an entrepreneur, and in your small business. Being clear on this will mean you look for the right help at the right time – from the right person. It also ensures that any interactions won’t be a waste of time for either of you.

Seeking out a great business mentor requires preparation, and starts with knowing yourself and your business well. Begin by answering the following questions:

  • What are my key challenges right now, that an outside, expert perspective could help me to overcome? Try to categorise these into either personal development challenges, or technical business issues.
  • Do I need advice, or do I need physical help? It’s important to be clear on what type of help you need, so that you look for the right type of solution.

When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who never left home.

What kind of business mentor do I need?

Once you have a better idea of what you need, you can start exploring business mentorship options. Depending on the type of challenge you’re tackling, you may need to consider approaching a trainer rather than a mentor. A mentor offers their knowledge, expertise and advice, and will guide you in the right direction. A trainer will teach you practical, new skills that give you the technical ‘know how’ to solve the problem yourself.

When considering business mentorship options, think of this quote by Rumi: “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who never left home.” It’s important to do your homework on every person you hope to approach – ensure they are qualified to support you in addressing your specific challenges.

How do I find the right mentor?

But, where does one even begin to look for a business mentor? The best place to start is within your own network – family and friends may present an incredible brains trust to tap for advice and further connections.

Thankfully, the start-up scene across the country is burgeoning, creating better networking opportunities – and more chances to scout out different mentorship choices. Currently, the top three local start-up communities which provide great exposure to different suitable contenders are:

You’ll want to use these professional gatherings to get to know people in the industry, whom you can reach out to more formally post-event (often these communities also have databases of available mentors ). Remember, the events themselves aren’t the time or place to go around asking people to be your mentor – it’s a chance to meet, greet and suss out different potential options. 

If you collect someone’s business card at a large function, give it a few days before following up with an email. Make sure to thank them for taking the time to chat to you, and enquire about their appetite for business mentorship. If they express interest, let them know you’re looking for some personalised guidance, and be specific about what help you’re after.

Put yourself out there

Access to the right people means nothing if you don’t put yourself out there, and convince them that it’s worth their time to mentor you. This is critical and why upfront planning is so important – it’s preparing you to ‘pitch’ effectively to a prospective mentor. Remember that asking a total stranger to personally counsel and guide you requires getting them to believe in you and your vision. A little strategy, some networking, and lots of charisma and passion for what you do, go a long way in securing the best professional fit to help unlock your potential and that of your business.