As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to find a good mentor. You don’t want to share your weaknesses and struggles with just anybody. You need someone who has significant knowledge and experience with the issues that you’re facing. However, once you find someone you think might be a good fit, how do you convince them that you are worth their time? (Hint: it’s not all about your idea.)
Here is a list of five characteristics that I find help make an entrepreneur appealing to potential mentors.
1. YOU’VE GOT BUSINESS SAVVY.
Sounds obvious? Maybe it is. But not every entrepreneur has it. Just look at the ideas out there, and you’ll realize that not everyone who has sold out for a business idea made the best decision. Some ideas are bad. Some are really bad. Before you declare yourself ready for a mentor, run your idea by at least 25 people. If several of them either don’t get it, question its effectiveness, or doubt your ability to get it done, then maybe you should reevaluate before moving forward.
2. YOU’RE COACHABLE.
Asking for mentorship is essentially asking to be coached, and if there’s one thing that coaches hate the most, it’s players who don’t listen. If you’re going to seek out someone to help you develop yourself and your ideas, you should be prepared to hear and respond to challenging feedback. If you want someone that’s always encouraging and supportive, you’re looking for a mom–not a mentor.
3. YOU’RE A DOER.
Maybe you have thick skin and are eager to have your ideas challenged. But if listening doesn’t result in doing–if you don’t act quickly and decisively–then you’re wasting your mentor’s time. Every time your mentor suggests an action, you should be prepared to make the first moves immediately. If you struggle to make time, then you’re not ready for a mentor. If you struggle to find the motivation, then you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.
4. YOU’RE A COMMUNICATOR.
There are few things more disrespectful and less professional than poor communication. Long delays in response time, typos in emails, or failure to communicate at all is a quick path to losing both the attention and respect of any mentor. Tip? Respond to every email within 24 hours, always send a follow up/thank you message, and re-read everything you communicate to your mentor. You’ll find this to be a valuable life skill in general. If you value others’ time, they will value yours.
5. YOU’VE GOT GRIT.
This hits at the core of what it means to be an entrepreneur. You can’t just have an inquisitive mind and expect to make it in the startup world. You’ve got to have grit. Tenacity. Relentless persistence. You’ve got to be prepared to fail multiple times before succeeding. You’ve got to be confident that it’s not a matter of whether you’ll succeed, but when. You’ve got to be ready to sacrifice comfort, stability, and maybe even respect for the sake of your idea or company. That’s grit.
SOUND LIKE YOU?
Take a hard look at yourself and decide whether you have each of these traits before you seek out someone to mentor you. Some of them can be learned fairly easily. Shrewd business skills and good communication habits are a matter of practice. The others, however, take more time and are harder to fake. My advice? Work on yourself first. Then work on finding a mentor.