Why “I want a mentor” is the wrong question to build your business

I overheard someone asking “Would you be my mentor?”  It’s such a tough question!! You are trying to grow your business and need help. But you know that your chances of getting “yes” are pretty slim.

So how do you do it well?

I participated in a small business mentoring roundtable this year.  Attendees asked one question and the mentors shared advice.  My job – along with the other mentors – was to give amazing on the spot coaching.

Which of course, lead to ongoing mentoring requests as soon as the event concluded.

But, I had the chance to see a few participants nail the request.  I wanted to share how they did it. It might give you some ideas to grow your business by getting expert advice  in your corner.


Why "I want a mentor" is the wrong question to build your businessProve that you deserve a mentor

Now before you get your panties in a pinch, take a deep breath.

This is NOT an ego based question.

Good mentors only have so many hours in a day. They need to grow their own businesses.  Plus there are other things like:

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Meeting their own self development growth opportunities
  • Sleeping, working out and life

So what makes you interesting?  Why would they spend time with you?

Here is a better way to ask someone to be a mentor: Here is a better way to ask someone to be a mentor: Invite them for a TEN minute coffee meeting. Ask only one specific question.  This eliminates all objections for people who want to give back – but has limited time.  If you both have a good connection, you can spend more time.  But if it’s a one time meeting, it sets the boundaries. You both leave feeling accomplished.

So don’t ask if you connect as a mentor.  Just ask if you can get help with 1 question.  And see what happens from there.


Why "I want a mentor" is the wrong question to build your businessStop asking for free.  Offer something in exchange

I’ve been blessed to have a number of mentors in my life.  Yes, people who opened up doors.  Gave me candid advice. And provided invaluable  insights.

But great mentors are not easy to come by.

Start first with what you can OFFER.

Here’s an example:

When I first started in my career, I used to volunteer to work behind the scenes at events.  I was able to meet many senior professionals with this strategy.  The conversations would often flow naturally. When I needed them to help with tough questions, I never had problems getting support.

Here is a better way to genuinely connect: If you liked my earlier idea, VOLUNTEER TO PAY FOR THE COFFEE.   It’s a small gesture.  Most people won’t even expect you pay.  But the gesture goes along way.  It ensures that you value them and will probably value their advice.

Or ask them about an upcoming event that they are attending.  Are there projects or activities that they could use help with behind the scenes?  Maybe social media support – ie. sharing good 1 liners via Twitter?  Or helping to stuff gift bags?

Start first with the give.  You’ll have a super easy place to start once the conversations start.

And it goes without saying – be genuine.  No one likes someone who is only attending an event to get the free appetizers. Or doesn’t help out and spends all their time schmoozing.  This a long term opportunity.  So don’t make short term mistakes.

Stop asking for a mentor when you really need to do the heavy lifting

One of my mentors shared years ago that he is never afraid of post his phone number when he talks with a large group of youth.  I freaked out when he told me.

But he told me why he does it.  He knows maybe 1 or 2 students will call.

It broke my heart when he told me because he is an incredibly giving and generous person when it comes to offering advice.  He shares very honest and well thought out advice.

But I know exactly why most people aren’t going to to call him.  They will have to do some work when they get off the call.

  • Maybe you have to research
  • Maybe you have to change the path you were headed on
  • Maybe you have to roll up your sleeves and spend a few hours following through.

Annnnnnd the “sex” appeal diminishes.  Instead of being about to boast that you spoke to “so and so”, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and apply the insights you have been given.

Drops the # of people who call down to zero in most rooms.

So take a step back.  Make sure you are willing to APPLY the ideas and insights that someone shares with you.  No, you don’t want to take the advice blindly and do everything exactly the way they tell you.  But you do need to follow through on some of the advice that they offered.

The person wants to know  is that their advice matters 

And if you know you need more one on one coaching…then be willing to pay for it.  There are some amazing business coaches that can hold our hand and feet to the fire at the same time.

I hope this post gave you some ideas about how to get started. Or how to ask someone you meet at an upcoming event for more personalized insights or advice.

And if you realize that you need to hire your own coach, consider if you and I would be a good fit. Maybe you need help in asking someone for the first conversation.  Or you are stuck on how to follow-up after you meet someone at a meeting.

Stop stressing by yourself!  Consider a one time strategy session and get more solutions and less overwhelm.




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