By Syed Balkhi, co-founder of OptinMonster.
No matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey, you can always benefit from having a mentor. Mentors can help you identify and avoid business pitfalls and work your way through the challenges you'll encounter on your journey. Learning from mentors will help you learn from their mistakes and avoid committing the same ones. But choosing the right mentor is critical.
Pairing with the wrong mentor can set you back both personally and professionally, so it's important to take time to evaluate your potential mentor before choosing. Here are five questions to consider before choosing and placing your trust in anyone claiming to be an expert or a mentor:
1. Do they have relevant experience?
You'll find a glut of self-proclaimed experts in every corner of the internet. Some of those are well-read and well-spoken, making them seem on the surface like they're full of wisdom to share. Your mentor should have a track record of success in what they do. While you can't expect them to spoon-feed you all the answers, they should at least have relevant experience to help you overcome the challenges you may encounter.
Aside from experience, you should also look for some important personal qualities in your mentors. For instance, you need to make sure that you both share the same values in entrepreneurship. There are often multiple possible resolutions to every challenge. Choose a person who can understand your business challenges and help you overcome them in a fashion that melds with your own values and style.
2. Have they succeeded on multiple projects, or are they a one-hit wonder?
Beware of the one-hit wonder who somehow succeeded in a business by being in the right place at the right time. Just because someone has succeeded once doesn't mean they know anything about keeping up with market trends and embracing timely changes to their strategy in order to stay ahead of the curve.
People who have succeeded in multiple projects are those who are focused on their goals and are purposeful. They pay attention to changes and embrace them. They know how to mitigate risk and survive in the long run by soldiering through a wide variety of market conditions.
3. Are they practicing what they preach?
The best way to differentiate a true expert from false prophets is to look at whether they're walking the talk. You should always listen to those who have been there rather than wannabe experts who don't practice what they preach.
As Oscar Wilde once said, "Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lessons come after." Make sure that the mentor you're choosing has solid, real-world experience. If your mentor is not in the trenches that they've been preaching about, they're missing out on some valuable learning experience and have none to impart to you.
4. Does their business model revolve around teaching you to be successful?
In my experience, the best coaches/mentors you can get are the ones who don't actively sell their time or services. Often, successful people are seen down in the tunnel, mining gold for themselves. They don't sell shovels to gold diggers. When it comes to choosing a mentor, I'd rather choose the ones who have proven track record and who walk the talk than those who found success only by teaching others how to be successful.
5. Will they agree to mentor you?
The last thing you should consider is whether they would be interested in mentoring you. Once you've identified someone you think would be a perfect mentor for you, feel free to reach out to them without hesitation. You may be surprised that a lot of them are approachable on social media. You can meet them in-person at conferences or even book a call with them through a service like Clarity.
Tell them why you've identified them as a mentor and what you're expecting from the mentorship, and ask if they're open to discussing it more. Mentoring is a reality check. You don't necessarily need to blindly follow all their advice, but they definitely help you make informed decisions. The best way to look for a mentor is by narrowing down a few leaders you already admire. Before choosing a mentor, perform your due diligence by asking the above-listed questions to ensure that they're the perfect match to your needs.
Syed Balkhi is the co-founder of OptinMonster, a conversion rate optimization software that helps you recover abandoning website visitors and turn them into subscribers and customers.