There's someone you should know about. His name is Billy.
Although he may not be one of the regular names that you would recognize off the street (but, you really should), he is a proverbial someone you probably know or need to know ASAP. I used to be a naive little entrepreneur, thinking that opening a gym just required some space and a couple of dumbbells. I thought the profit margin was high and the late nights were few and far between.
Then, I met Billy. He was the co-owner of DIAKADI, one of the most prominent and successful gyms in San Francisco, and although we started out as friends, he eventually took me under his wing and shared everything he knew about opening a gym.
From urgent texts about how I should negotiate a lease to long emails that listed every question to the moon and back, he was there to answer them thoroughly and with full honesty.
Somehow, I had stumbled upon a true mentor. This wasn't someone who would check in with me every six months and courteously ask me how things are going. This was someone who was okay with the nitty-gritty and genuinely wanted to help me avoid the pitfalls as a new gym owner. Billy was the consultant, business partner, and all-knowing human that I couldn't financially afford.
So, how did I pay him back? We traded time for time.
Why? I made sure not to take, take, and take.
Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to monitor one's own and other's emotions and I knew that if I just asked for mentorship, but didn't find a way to give back, neither I or my mentor would feel good.
In my mid-twenties, I found myself assuming the role as an intern again. For every six hours of my internship helping around the gym, Billy and his partner Mike would grant me one hour of one-on-one business training.
In that hour, I had full permission to ask all of the questions (trust me, I had a lot). These were the kind of questions that could only otherwise be answered through trial and expensive error--Billy and Mike saved me from a lot of unknowns and I feel so grateful that to have had them as a resource.
In a day and age where people can get competitive and paranoid about sharing information, finding a mentor is hard.
How do you find someone that cares about your well-being and entrepreneurial success? Luck has a lot to do with it, but trying these five things mixed in with emotional awareness can increase your chances of finding a true mentor.
1. Reach out to all of your business idols.
Who are the top in your industry? Who do you want to be like? Don't be afraid to ask them for mentorship, but be specific in what you are looking for and what you can also provide them. Their time is valuable (it got them where they are!) so be patient if they don't have a fast response time or can't mentor you to the extent that you want.
Try email first and don't be afraid to interact with them on social media, too.
2. Attend conferences or speaking events and actually stay back to thank the speaker.
This is a perfect place to connect with someone in person. You've already had the opportunity to hear them speak on something so use that as a common starting point and work the conversation towards a natural progression of staying connected.
3. Have something to offer.
This one is the most important thing to note. Give them a reason to want to connect with you. Can you help them network with someone they can't get a hold of? Can you help them with another aspect of their business? Can you do a trade of some sort? Let them know that although you have questions about one aspect of your business, you also have expertise in another part.
Robert Cialdini, the author of "Influence", explains that reciprocity is key to having someone help you out: "People are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first."
Before you take, remember to give.
4. Be kind and respectful.
This one is obvious, but don't expect them to immediately say yes. Sometimes developing a solid mentor takes a lot of time. Remember, they are not obligated to do anything for you.
At the end of the day, the value of Billy and his team's mentorship was priceless for me. At the very least, I will continue to search for ways to support his own dreams and business. Whether it's showing up to his most important events or sharing whatever knowledge I can share, I will always have major gratitude that my mentor said yes when he didn't have to.