As a young entrepreneur, you likely have many questions about starting and running your own business. Often, these concerns become so overwhelming that you might not know where to turn or how to grow your business successfully.

That's why business mentors are invaluable to those new to entrepreneurship. By offering personal insight and tailored advice, they’re able to guide you through the challenging startup process. Below, a group of successful business leaders explained the best ways to approach an established entrepreneur about being your mentor and guiding you down the road to success.

Do your research.

Before you approach someone about being your mentor, Richard Fong, founder and CEO of Bliss Drive, says it’s important to research and study that person's life work.

"Once you have done your homework, it's much easier to understand where that person is coming from and ask the engaging questions for a mutually stimulating dialogue," says Fong.

Know what you want from the mentorship.

A mentor can serve a lot of roles in your professional life, including helping you determine where and what you should do. However, you should know specifically what you want the mentor to help you with as you approach them, says Angela Ruth, a customer experience representative at Calendar.

"They want to know what areas of your life or business you are struggling with, so be prepared to be specific on the type of help you need," Ruth explains.

Seek someone who inspires you.

Piyush Jain, CEO of SIMpalm, recalls meeting his first boss and mentor at a tech talk. This mentor inspired Jain right away, and within a few weeks, they were working together.

"He not only taught me several business techniques, but he also inspired me as a business person," Jain says. "You need someone who is inspirational. That's what you need when you are stuck in some problem."

Consider shared values.

It seems obvious to choose a potential mentor who has a lot of experience in the industry. However, experience alone doesn't make a mentor-mentee relationship work; you should also consider that person's values and world view.

"Make sure to ask a potential mentor what their values are and how they view the world," says Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms. "If they match up with your ideals, you'll have a better chance at seeing eye to eye and creating a stronger relationship."

Build up a relationship first.

According to Syed Balkhi, co-founder of WPBeginner, it's usually not a good idea to flat out ask someone if they want to be your mentor. Instead, he says, this process should happen naturally as you build a rapport with someone.

"You should try to spend time with influential people in your industry and build rapport," Balkhi says. "You'll build strong connections and potentially find your future mentor."

Show them what's in it for them.

The most successful entrepreneurs don't typically have much free time to serve as a mentor. They likely won't be interested in helping you if you can’t do anything for them, says Solomon Thimothy, president of OneIMS.

"If you want to build a strong relationship with your mentor and really get honest and valuable business insights, offer something in return," Thimothy advises. "Even if they don't need anything from you, this will show that you try and care."

Show them you're willing to put in the work.

Above all else, your potential mentor needs to know you are committed and in it for the long haul. No mentor is going to want to work with you if they feel you aren't up for the task at hand, says Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights.

"If you don't show an eager willingness to be mentored by them, you decrease your chances of them agreeing to it," Christoff says. "Demonstrate this willingness by making it clear you're going to follow through with what they advise you to do."

Published on: Sep 16, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.